At Edwins Leadership & Restaurant, the fine dining experience makes the establishment stand out — not just for diners but the staff, made up of mostly ex-cons looking for a second chance.
“The main mission of Edwins is to help anyone coming out of the justice system achieve their goals,” said Brandon Chrostowski, founder of Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute.
The restaurant, specializing in upscale French cuisine, is almost entirely run by students, of which 90 percent have been formerly incarcerated or have been convicted of felonies.
As a part of their six-month program, students prepare dishes, serve customers, manage the eatery and handle the business end of the restaurant.
In return, students are given valuable training, an affordable place to live, guidance under a private case worker and a stipend for their hard work.
“It dismisses the idea that if you have a felony, you’re unemployable,” Chrostowski said. “If you don’t have a skill, you’re unemployable. If you don’t have a network, you’re unemployable. There’s truth to that, but it’s not the felony that holds you back.”
Greg Horton, 25, a graduate of the program, credits Edwins for turning his life around.
“Here, they didn’t really care about what I did or what I had been through,” Horton told InsideEdition.com. “Everyone just wanted to work toward being somebody.”
Growing up, Horton explained, his mom wasn’t always around.
“It wasn’t really a bad environment, but I made my way doing bad stuff and not staying on the right path – dropping out of school, and all of that,” he said.
He said he was eventually arrested in 2011 for robbery, and sentenced to five years in prison, where he continued to act out.
“It was the same thing every day – a lot of stress, and wanting to do more,” Horton said. “It took me over three years to really get myself together, and figure out if I was going to do something better.”
He then attended a presentation held in the prison, hosted by Chrostowski.
“I kept his card,” he said.
When he got out of prison in February 2016, he struggled with what to do next, until he decided to give Chrostowski a call.
“Nobody was really opening their arms to me, but I came here and they opened their arms and accepted me,” Horton said. “They gave me a chance.”
Source: Inside Edition | Johanna Li