It’s hard for ex-cons to find a second chance in life. With a criminal record and limited education, there aren’t many jobs available. In Cleveland, Ohio, one restaurant is working to change that.
Edwins is a French restaurant that delivers a fine dining experience to diners. Its staff recommend wine pairings and serve classic French dishes. Few visitors realize that the restaurant is primarily staffed by former offenders, but more than 200 ex-cons have been trained at Edwins in the past three years.
Owner Brandon Chrostowski has his own history with the law. He was arrested as a teenager and faced up to 10 years in prison. The judge gave him probation instead, and he met a mentor when working at a restaurant. That chef inspired Chrostowski to clean up his act and work towards his goal of owning his own establishment.
He’s created a structured program for the former offenders who come to his restaurant. Daytime classes provide culinary training and education. Every attendee receives at least 40 hours of training per week and learns to cook up a dinner service during the evenings. Students are paid for their work and receive tips for their work. The restaurant also keeps a full-time caseworker on staff to help students navigate life’s difficulties.
Many criminal offenders re-offend. Without a job, it’s hard not to fall back into a life of crime. Thanks to Chef Chrostowski’s efforts, not a single student in his program has gone back to jail. He’s not satisfied yet; he recently raised over $1 million to build dormitories for his students and give them stable housing. He’s been honored with the 2016 CNN Heroes Award, but the real honor is knowing how many lives he’s touched.