Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute, the French restaurant at Shaker Square that employs ex-convicts and gives them on-the-job training and a foothold in the industry in an upscale restaurant, celebrated its first birthday on November 1st.
Founder and chef Brandon Chrostowski sees many reasons to celebrate with the success the restaurant has seen in its first year. Forty-four students have graduated from the program and 40 have gone on to work in fine dining establishments in the region. In the first class, 100 percent of the graduates had jobs within 30 days of graduation and 85 percent of the graduates still were working in their jobs six months later.
Edwins took in $1.4 million last year, which covered roughly 73% of the school portion of the restaurant’s model, which teaches its student employees virtually every aspect of running a restaurant. Edwins also has a long list of sponsors and supporters who believe in second chances.
Goals for Edwins’ second year include 75 graduates with 80 percent job retention after a year; 81 percent of total expenses covered by restaurant sales and diner contributions; and a less than five percent recidivism rate.
Chrostowski says the restaurant has learned some lessons in the first year as well. Smaller classes of 12 to 15 accepted every six weeks instead of 55 students starting all at once result in a higher graduation rate. “You’re going to get better results with a smaller class because you’re going to get to know the students more,” explains Chrostowski.
Housing, transportation and childcare are the biggest issues for Edwins students to overcome. Those issues are being resolved through the kindness of patrons and friends. A group of Ruffing Montessori School parents and teachers recently walked in to Edwins to offer their help. That group now provides childcare five days a week. Chrostowski was able to secure 30 beds on E. 130th Street and St. Clair Avenue for those employees who need a place to stay. And he recently brought on a case manager to help with additional support needs.
“We’re all working as hard as we can for each other to get on with the next phase of their lives,” says Chrostowski, who also credits his staff of three managers with providing guidance and support. Chrostowski is always looking for volunteers to help continue Edwins’ success.