'Huge win:' EDWINS leader passed over for Beard Award, but still counts his victories

When EDWINS Leadership Restaurant and Institute founder Brandon Chrostowski in March found out he was a finalist in the James Beard Awards, he was over the moon. But he kept his focus on his mission—giving formerly incarcerated individuals a second chance at success and providing the resources they need to thrive.

And when he did not win the Outstanding Restaurateur award at the Chicago ceremony this past Monday, June 5, Chrostowski was still grinning from ear to ear.

“It was a huge win just to be out there, just to be a finalist,” he says. “I don’t think there’s ever been someone from Cleveland in this category. The whole weekend was a blast—it feels like my birthday. We’re really making an impact doing what we do, but F—yeah, to make the top five is crazy! No complaints. We had a blast.” 

Chrostowski competed with other chefs across the country in the outstanding restaurateur category, which recognizes “a restaurateur who uses their establishment(s) as a vehicle for building community, demonstrates creativity in entrepreneurship and integrity in restaurant operations, and is making efforts to create a sustainable work culture, while contributing positively to their broader community.”

Chrostowski, who brought a team of 25 with him to Chicago, says the entire weekend was inspiring, as he sat on a “Food Access and Sustainability” panel with other nationally recognized chefs, including Rick Bayless, Maya-Camille Broussard, Valerie Horn, Justin Pioche, Sarah Welch, and Erick Williams.

“Everything we did was Four Seasons, the Waldorf,” he says of the experience. “Every second of every day was impactful. All in all, it was a great time.”

On Tuesday, it was back to business as usual for Chrostowski, who made a stop at Danville Corrections Institute to talk to 200 inmates who are interested in the culinary arts.

“Now it’s back to the grind,” he says, mentioning his recently opened Family Center, which provides free quality childcare to children of returning citizens in a safe, stable, and caring environment, his Shaker Square restaurant, Buckeye butcher shop and training center, and residential campus. “We have to get out there and reach the people who haven’t been reached.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.