Reentry Spotlight: EDWINS

As part of our continuing Reentry Spotlight series, GTL is proud to share this post authored by Brandon E. Chrostowski, Founder of EDWINS. GTL is working to help support and share EDWINS training with more returning citizens seeking a career in the food service industry. In addition, GTL is helping to fund a new playground for children of the returning citizens residing in the free housing provided by the EDWINS program.

How do you change the face of reentry? EDWINS offers a recipe for success.

Founded in 2007 by Brandon E. Chrostowski, EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, the Cleveland-based restaurant and training program, provides formerly incarcerated adults with a foundation in culinary arts and the hospitality industry, as well as the support network necessary for long-term success. Participants are equipped with basic culinary skills from EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, its fine French eatery, EDWINS Butcher Shop, and EDWINS Bakery & Diner.

Students and graduates have access to several support services at the nearby EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center. Employment assistance, free housing, legal services, basic medical care, clothing, job coaching, literacy programs, and more are available. Located in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood of Cleveland, the campus is home to students and alumni who are pursuing a career in the dining and food service industries and need guidance to help remove potential obstacles.

“Every human, regardless of their past, deserves a fair and equal future,” says Brandon E. Chrostowski, EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute’s founder, CEO, and President. “When you get a second chance, we can help returning citizens get on the path to transform their lives, families and careers.”

Today, Chrostowski’s guiding principles, along with the belief that “education wins,” remains true.

As the subject of the 2018 Academy Award nominated documentary, Knife Skills, EDWINS’ six-month program teaches a variety of skills, from cooking fundaments to advanced techniques. Through classes and hands-on training, participants gain work experience with front and back of house operations. For those who are still in the system, Grafton Correctional Institute offers on-site training, and curriculum is available to inmates at all 30 Ohio state prisons.

EDWINS now graduates nearly 100 students a year, with a 95% employment rate and less than 1% recidivism.

But Chrostowski’s mission is not nearly complete.

In addition to the foundational training, students can vie for a coveted spot in the EDWINS Management Fellowship program. Intended to provide specialized and practical instruction in restaurant management and operations, the Fellowship nurtures tomorrow’s leaders – owners, operators, and managers – and fulfills the increasing talent demand of the ever-growing dining industry.

“There is a definite bias and absence of inclusion, whether conscious or unconscious, that continues to permeate the industry,” says Chrostowski. “We are firmly committed to eliminating barriers for those who have returned to society, post-incarceration, and have the passion to excel.”

To learn more about EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, please contact or visit:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @EDWINSCle

To assist us in providing tuition-free education and other services for EDWINS students, please visit

For a list of more organizations and resources aimed at helping returning citizens, go here.

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