Leadership at Its Finest – Chapter Meeting at EDWINS

By Elaine T. Cicora
Reporting by Maria Isabella

For eleven chapter members and three guests, our May 14 membership meeting at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute proved to be an evening of engagement, inspiration and delicious food, prepared and served by EDWINS’ staff of talented trainees.

Founded in 2007 by the charming, and highly accomplished, hospitality professional Brandon Edwin Chrostowski, EDWINS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing formerly incarcerated adults with a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry, while providing the support network necessary for their long-term success. Its mission is three-fold: to teach a skilled and in-demand trade in the culinary arts, to empower willing minds through passion for hospitality management, and to prepare students for a successful transition home. (To learn more about Brandon’s impressive roster of awards and accomplishments, and the talented team of culinary professionals who help operate the restaurant, click here.)

The elegant restaurant on historic Shaker Square opened on Nov. 1, 2013.

During the business portion of the meeting, Dame Maria Isabella presented Brandon with a cookbook stand and 30 cookbooks from her personal collection, including Jacques Pepin’s “La Technique,” for use by the trainees. Afterward, members had an opportunity to order from the unique and totally French menu, which featured such sublime dishes as Guinea hen airline breast, stuffed with morel mushrooms, spring pea puree, Swiss chard and rosemary Madeira sauce; grilled seafood sausage with white fish, scallops, shrimp and pine nuts in a shallot beurre blanc; and seared foie gras, with peach compote, strawberry verjus and pickled strawberries. The meal was leisurely, and members enjoyed a wonderful opportunity for networking and fellowship within the restaurant’s beautiful setting. And clearly, we weren’t the only diners who appreciated the EDWINS experience: Franz Welser-Most, famed conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, was spotted at the next table!

Near meal’s end, members heard from Brandon, who delivered a short, impromptu talk. He briefly described the institute’s 6-month training program, and discussed the mission and the philosophy behind it. He also referenced his Oscar-nominated film, Knife Skills, which documents the restaurant’s hectic launch (click on the link to watch it). And finally, he noted that the institute is currently raising money to build a butcher shop, to provide additional career training opportunities to the institute’s students. This was followed by a lively Q&A session.

Members finally pulled themselves away from the table around 9:30 p.m., full, happy and impressed, as always, by EDWINS, Brandon, and the world-class program he has established in Cleveland.