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EDWINS expanding opportunities to former inmates with butcher shop in Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood

Posted at 9:15 AM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-10 09:19:46-04

The Academy Award-nominated documentary "Knife Skills" introduced the world to the work being done by Brandon Chrostowski, founder of the Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute, in helping ex-offenders re-enter society by teaching them the skills needed for careers in the restaurant industry.

Where the film left off, life continued. Since it was shot in 2013 the institute opened its Life Skills Center which now houses and provides additional skills to its students and coming this winter their latest venture, a butcher shop.

"This will almost be treated like an elective class so anyone who chooses to get the extra training in butchery is welcome to come through the program," Chrostowski said of what will be an 8-week curriculum.

"It's a butcher's shop where we're teaching our students the cuts of meat, how to make the sausage, how to make the charcuterie, but also put in a place that the neighborhood deserves because this neighborhood has been in need of fresh meat butchery."

The butcher shop and deli will be housed in a former storefront at 13024 Buckeye Road and will be open to the public. "It will function no different than a regular butcher shop, with the exception of apprentices, year round," he said.

"To build and continue to build in this Buckeye neighborhood means everything," Chrostowski said of the plans which meet the institute's central mission of four core points.

"It has to benefit our students, it has to insulate our sustainability as a non-profit, as a business. It needs to improve the neighborhood in which we live and it needs to continue to make that footprint bigger for the mission of re-entry."

Chrostowski said he hopes to change the face of re-entry while also continuing to strive towards the creation of the best culinary school in the country.

"In order to do so we need to take these micro-lessons and build out individual hubs for them; for instance butchery, so here comes a butcher shop, next will be a bakery, fishmonger, a wine and cheese shop and we'll just continue doing that in Buckeye."

"So at the end of it all we have the best culinary school driven by men and women who are returning home right here in Cleveland and I believe that's going to make a big statement across this country."

The documentary on Edwins may not have won an Academy Award, but it won over those who knew nothing about the work they're doing.

"What it's done is allowed a window to be open to have a dialogue about re-entry and that film has just sliced that open across the country so that when you do come into a room where someone has seen it they're willing to listen and they're also willing to give," Chrostowski said. "But in prisons, the most remarkable part is it's inspiring men and women in the darkness of prison and we're getting more letters, we're getting students from a broader spectrum, from Indiana, from Texas so the whole thing has been incredible."