With a detailed culinary and hospitality training program, extensive support network and wide breadth of resources, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute is an invaluable stepping stone for formerly incarcerated adults in Cleveland preparing for the transition back home.
The Cleveland Browns are proud to support EDWINS and their commitment to social justice as they work to provide their students with a solid foundation for long-term success. As part of their commitment to social justice efforts, including in the reentry space, the Browns began their partnership with EDWINS in 2019, donating an initial $75,000 to the institute to assist the organization with its mission. The donation was made by the Browns organization and players through the NFL's team-player social justice matching funds program.
To date, the Browns have donated over $400,000 to support various EDWINS initiatives and goals, including increasing student graduation rates, providing official cooking certifications to students at no cost, increasing leadership training for EDWINS students, and maintaining its 95% employment rate.
The Browns have also aided EDWINS by enabling access to its culinary curriculum to incarcerated individuals to help them prepare for their re-entry process. Each year, EDWINS brings in 60-75 formerly incarcerated individuals for an intensive, tuition-free culinary training program. While enrolled, students are also provided with free housing, legal services, basic medical care, clothing, job coaching, literacy programs and more at the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center, which was opened in 2016. The 20,000 square-foot campus is utilized by program participants for living, working and recreation.
With the help of Browns' funding and the hard work of the institute, EDWINS' results have been consistently remarkable over the years with 100 graduates per year, a 95% employment rate after graduation, and a 1% recidivism rate.
In 2021, the EDWINS' curriculum was rolled out to 45,000 GTL tablets in prisons across the country. In partnership with GTL, a trusted, one-stop corrections industry resource, the EDWINS curriculum encompasses gastronomy, culinary math, menu prep, ServSafe certification exam preparation, Front of the House (FOH) training, including drink preparation and bartending, and Back of the House (BOH) training, including food selection and preparation. Participants in the virtual program have been invited post-incarceration to enroll at the institute in Cleveland. The Cleveland Browns sponsored travel scholarships for the first cohort of 25 students, allowing them to gain hands-on instruction from EDWINS itself and ultimately graduate from the program.
Following the curriculum roll-out in 2021 and to thank the organization for its partnership and work in the social justice space, the Browns were honored to send EDWINS Founder, President, and CEO, Brandon Chrostowski, with two tickets to Super Bowl LV. Chrostowski chose to bring Jamal Williams, an EDWINS graduate, with him to enjoy the game. In addition to the Super Bowl tickets, the Browns have provided EDWINS with hundreds of tickets to games and other special events, including Training Camp and the NFL Draft.
The Browns support has remained strong over the years, and most recently were the title sponsor of La Bastille, an annual fundraiser and dinner hosted by EDWINS that coincides with the French National Holiday on July 14. The celebration included a Parisian dinner, open bar, live music and auctions, with all proceeds benefiting the program. Browns staff and alumni, including Ben Davis and Greg Pruitt, attended this year's celebration held at EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center.
"I am profoundly grateful for the unwavering support of the Cleveland Browns as we continue our mission at EDWINS to offer second chances to formerly incarcerated adults," said Founder, President, and CEO of EDWINS, Brandon Chrostowski. "Their commitment to social justice is a powerful force for positive change in our community. Together, we are proving that with compassion, determination, and teamwork, we can transform lives and build a brighter future for all."
Chrostowski was given a second chance when he was released from jail at 18 years old when faced with a 10-year prison sentence. Instead of prison, he was sentenced to a year of probation and soon found himself working with Detroit-area chef George Kalergis, who served as a culinary teacher and mentor.
After attending The Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chrostowski was inspired to help others soon to be released from incarceration. He founded EDWINS in 2007, began teaching at Grafton Correctional Institute in 2011 and opened EDWINS Restaurant in Shaker Heights in November 2013. Since then, the EDWINS family has grown to include a fine French restaurant, butcher shop, bakery and EDWINS Too – a culinary incubator, community kitchen, event, and makers' space.
To learn more about EDWINS and the work they do, or to make a reservation at the restaurant (with all proceeds supporting their mission), visit their website.