Chef with mission to give convicts a second chance will share story in central Wisconsin

Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 8:40 AM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW/CBS News) - EDWINS restaurant in Cleveland aims to tackle one of the nation’s biggest problems: Convicts getting out of prison and then going right back in. The expanding restaurant empire, led by Brandon Chrostowski, only trains those who have had a run-in with the law, in an attempt to give them a shot at a better life.

Chrostowski will share his passion for food and his story during two presentations Tuesday and Wednesday in central Wisconsin.

He works to give others the same type of second chance he says he was given.

Two decades ago, he was 18 and dealing drugs. When he got caught, he found himself in front of a forgiving judge. Instead of sentencing him to five to 10 years in prison, the judge put him on probation – a decision Chrostowski credits to “the color of my skin and the grace of God.”

Chrostowski eventually started working at a kitchen in his hometown of Detroit. He later trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and was soon working at top French restaurants in Paris and New York. But the second chance he got was always in the back of his mind. So he came up with a plan: to open the best French restaurant in the world – in Cleveland.

“I just looked at where the worst high school graduation rate was, and Cleveland, Ohio, happened to be the number two city in the country where people in high school didn’t graduate,” he said. “So I figured that’s a place that it’s needed.”

Everyone who trains at EDWINS – short for “education wins” – has had some run-in with the law, and many spent years in prison. Chrostowski aims to redirect their lives.

Chrostowski’s presentations are free to attend and no registration is required. Colin Hanson is one of the organizers of the event. He said a goodwill offering will be collected during Chrostowski’s presentations.

“He has other entities that he does in Cleveland, Ohio for the people that he is helping change their lives around. So come with an empty stomach. And if you have some dollars left from the holiday shopping to donate, that’d be great, too,” said Hanson.

He will be at Grebe’s in Wausau on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m. And at Sconni’s on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

“First of all, expect a lot of fun. But you know, it’s going to be sprinkled with some education about what we do and who we serve. Expect to have a good time, eat some great food and just have something to talk about,” said Chrostowski about the local events.

Chrostowski was interviewed by CBS in 2019. Click here to watch his story.