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Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute
The nonprofit restaurant, founded in 2013, aims to equip ex-inmates with the restaurant skills needed to land jobs in the industry.

A Cleveland Restaurateur Embarks on Bold Mayoral Run

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Brandon Chrostowski believes his experience can translate to a better future for the city.
By Danny Klein March 2017 Chef Profiles

Brandon Chrostowski sent out an email with the subject line “Thank You!!!” In the second paragraph, he revealed that he was taking a leave of absence from his four-year-old restaurant. The reasoning was a bit atypical. But, then again, Chrostowski is not exactly your average restaurateur.

Chrostowski simply needs to focus on his other career right now: Trying to become the next mayor of Cleveland.

The president and CEO of Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute announced his candidacy in February. He has never run for office at any level, but he possesses an undeniable link to the people and communities he hopes to serve.

Read About Brandon Chrostowski’s Work with Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute

The nonprofit restaurant, founded in 2013, aims to equip ex-inmates with the restaurant skills needed to land jobs in the industry. Zero of the program's 150 graduates have returned to prison, reports Cleveland Scene, the publication that first broke the announcement.

Chrostowski was inspired to create the restaurant after a personal brush with the law when he was 17. He avoided a 10-year sentence with probation, reportedly for an drug-related incident, and turned the opportunity into a career in foodservice. He seized a job offer from a chef in his home city of Detroit before heading to The Culinary Institute of America, to Lucas Carton in Paris, to Chanterelle and Le Cirque in New York City, and more.

Edwins Isn’t Just a Great Nonprofit, It’s a Great Restaurant

He told Scene that he notified Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson of his decision to run against him, adding that, “He’s a great shepherd. But I believe my ideas can be stronger for Cleveland than the current ideas.”

Chrostowski said he’s studied Cleveland’s economics and came away with a take he can empathize with. He believes the cost of corrections are damaging the city and that training centers similar to his restaurant could remedy the problem.

“You’re taking people who want to work but don’t have the skills and giving them work, which keeps the streets cleaner and keeps revenue coming in, and the cost savings would be monumental,” he told Scene.

Cleveland.com reported that nine other candidates have pulled petitions to enter the race. The primary will be held in September.

Chrostowski’s goal would be to scale up what he’s built at Edwins by adding these kinds of training centers across the city, Cleveland.com says.

“I'm not going to be naive. There is a difference [between running a business and running for office], but to me, I'm not looking at it that way" he said. "I'm not looking at approaching this like a politician. I'm approaching it like a businessman and someone who cares," he said to Cleveland.com.

Here’s what Chrostowski said in his email:

As you may be aware, earlier this year I announced my Cleveland mayoral bid. I’m running because I believe I can truly make a positive impact on the community and impart the real change that is needed.

With my campaign staff and strategy now in place, the campaign will gain momentum in the upcoming months.  In order to allow me the time and the focus I need to devote to my campaign and its grueling schedule, I have requested a leave of absence from EDWINS for the coming months.

I have lived and breathed EDWINS for the past ten years and am proud of what we’ve accomplished, together.  As a valued partner and donor to EDWINS, I want to ensure you that the organization will be in good hands in my absence. The board is in the final process of selecting and hiring an interim CEO, so that EDWINS’ mission, including its commitment to its students, will continue seamlessly.

I thank you for your support and I hope that you will continue to be a valued champion of EDWINS.