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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Edwins Restaurant: Giving Men and Women a Second Chance

Brandon Chrostowski, founder of Edwins Restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, knows all about second chances. At 18, he was arrested for dealing drugs and was facing five to ten years in prison. Instead, the judge gave him probation. Because of this second chance, Brandon turned his life around. He went back to school and eventually became one of the best French chefs in the country. He even worked in some of the finest restaurants in France.

Some of the staff at Edwins. Brandon is second from right.

But he could never forget all those individuals convicted of crimes who don’t get a second chance. He believes he was given probation by the judge, “Because of the color of my skin.” Brandon had the dream of starting a French restaurant where the entire staff would be formerly incarcerated individuals. He chose Cleveland for this dream because of its low high school graduation rates. What drives Brandon is his belief that “every human being regardless of their past has the right to a fair an equal future.”

Today, Brandon’s dream is called Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute. Edwin is his father’s name (I believe he said in a recent talk.) By adding the s, it now stands for “Education Wins!” Each person in the program is trained in basic culinary skills, receives assistance in finding employment, and has access to free housing, clothing, medical care, job coaching, and literacy programs. The campus even has a fitness room and library for its students. Recently the Institute purchased an apartment building which they hope to transform into family housing for some of their students. In response to another student need, Edwins started a free child-care facility near the restaurant.

How is Edwins funded? It relies on the money made by their beautiful white table cloth restaurant as well as on private donations. From the beginning, the Institute has chosen not to receive any government money.

Brandon lives on the campus of the Institute with his wife Catana and their four young children Leo, Lilly, Lark, and Landon. He works long hours because he has bought into Edwins’ mission statement: Our mission is to give formerly incarcerated individuals a foundation in the hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary for successful re-entry.

One of Edwins fancy desserts.

Once again we see, in Brandon’s story, how one compassionate and passionate individual, with the help of other like-souled individuals, can make a positive difference in our world. But it is one thing to read about Edwins and another thing to meet Brandon and see the institute and the restaurant in operation. There is a 40 min. documentary on the Institute, Knife Skills, that was nominated for an Oscar. Although the movie is a few years old, it is still relevant and features some of the individual students in the program. I found the film well-worth my time! You can view Knife Skills by going to the Edwins Restaurant website. It is listed at the top of their home page on the right side. Or you can google the film and find another free showing on line.


PS: Please pray for the retreat I’ll be leading this Friday and Saturday on “Celebrating the Gifts of Autumn,” sponsored by the Sophia Retreat Center in Atchison, KS. The participants and I really appreciate your prayerful support. Thank you!

The video below is a shorter feature that CBS did on Edwins. (It’s 7 mins. long) I think you’ll find it both interesting and inspiring.

For reflection: Is there anything that stood out for you in the story of Edwins?

I welcome your comments below! Our readers (and I!) love to read your comments!

11 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…

    This was beautiful. Thank you! My day has just begun on a note of hope! Have a great day!

  2. Wow! This story is one of hope and makes me smile. I also have a wistfulness for those who find themselves in a place no one wants to be-prison. Look at the good that has come from the bad. Thank you for sharing this story.

  3. When you feel down the way our country is going, this is such a positive story. I think we all yearn for something uplifting, like this. God must be smiling down on him everyday. He sounds like a very special person. God bless him. You too!!! Thanks

  4. Such good work! (made me cry). We are all redeemable. Thank God! And what an impact one decision made on the lives of many. So inspiring!

    1. Amy, I too shed a few tears when I learned about Edwins–and when I watched “Knife Skills.” And Brandon’s belief that we are all redeemable really struck me too. Thanks for your heart-felt comment! Melannie

  5. Sr Melannie,
    I so appreciate and look forward to your weekly blog. It teaches me something each week, plus makes me want to be a better person. Thanks for sharing this and all the music, poems, special situations, each week. I have learned so much from you. Love your humor as well.

  6. It should also be noted that earlier this year Brandon Chrostowski brought food and comfort to Ukraine and just last week did the same in Israel.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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