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Restaurant Teaches Former Inmates To Cook, Helps Them Get Back On Their Feet

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Man working the line at Edwin’s.
Man working the line at Edwin’s.

One restaurant is helping people who need a second chance.

Edwin’s, a popular, upscale French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, teaches people who were once incarcerated how to cook. Most of its staff has a prison record, as well.

The six-month nonprofit program that offers 40 to 50 hours a week of free training in everything from knife skills and mother sauces to wine basics, is the brainchild of Brandon Chrostowski -- the owner of Edwins and a chef who has worked at elite restaurants in Chicago, New York and Paris, according to CNN.

Chrostowski teaching a front-of-house class.
Chrostowski teaching a front-of-house class.

“Coming out of prison can be daunting; you may not feel like a human again,” Chrostowski told Cleveland.com. “But the food business is great for anyone willing to work hard. No one's doing background checks.”

Students get small stipends, according to Cleveland.com, which are funded by costumers. Instead of tipping, patrons have the option to give contributions to students. 

Chrostowski helps a student.
Chrostowski helps a student.

“We split [contributions] down the middle: half for the institute, half to the students. Students can stay for free at our dorm around the corner. We've opened another building where alumni can rent apartments,” Chrostowski told Cleveland.com, referring to the $1 million student housing campus the group built.

The program has been working, too. According to the restaurant’s press kit, more than 100 students have graduated since the restaurant and program opened in 2013. More than 90 percent of those graduates are employed and none have returned to prison.

Chrostowski teaches a student some knife skills.
Chrostowski teaches a student some knife skills.

Chrostowski, was inspired to start the program based on his own life experience.

“I was a reckless teenager, and one night, I was arrested and thrown in jail,” he told CNN. “Fortunately, I had a judge who gave me a break instead of 10 years in prison. While I was on probation, I met a chef who mentored me. Once I was in that kitchen, I knew that's where I belonged for the rest of my life.”

Now he’s helping other find the same, one dish at a time.

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