There is a place in Cleveland, Ohio where a man named Brandon has helped people get a second chance at life. It all comes from an expanding restaurant empire, led by Brandon Chrostowski, who two decades ago, 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 home town 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. But he needed a location for his project, and it needed to be somewhere with a special need. “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.” Why was he looking at such information in order to open a restaurant? Because 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 with a restaurant boot camp, a six-month program that provides housing, a library, donated clothes, and even a small farm. The goal is to attempt to give them a shot at a better life.
When he tells potential students about the program, he said, he gets two different responses. “First, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ he said. “The other is, ‘If you give me sand, I’ll drink it. Just give me an opportunity. I’ll take it, because that opportunity hasn’t been there in the past.'” And the students do not have it easy; the days are long – noon until midnight – and only 30% of students make it through. But this is a second chance at life. A way of love and hope.
Perhaps it truly was the Grace of God that Brandon Chrostowski was given his forgiveness, his second chance, so that he could offer one to many others. If you’d like to know more about Brandon or his program you can find it in your Good News Story of the Day here. But here is to hoping it inspires you to go forth today and offer a second chance, love and hope, to those you meet in your day.
Story and Image from CBS News.