Everyone deserves a second chance. Brandon Chrostowski, founder of Edwin’s Institute and Restaurant, has shown his belief in this statement through his program that aims to reintegrate formerly incarcerated adults into society.
Five students in an event planning course at John Carroll will bring Chrostowski to campus to speak on Nov. 17. The event planning course teaches students about the detailed process that goes into putting on major events. Students must learn how to structure a major event through logistics, budgeting, marketing and how to work with a deadline. Students must plan for an individual client and are given guidance along the way. “A well planned event looks effortless,” said Margaret Finucane, professor for the event planning course and assistant professor in the Tim Russert department of Communications and Theatre Arts.
Finucane explained that students must put together a final portfolio of all the work they have done for the course during the semester. She said that more than one student has told her that their experiences in class have earned them a job.
There are 25 students in this course broken up into five groups. Each group works on its semester long project of planning and executing a major event. The group bringing Chrostowski to speak consists of juniors Morgan Osheka and Michael Hippler and seniors Wanda Rosario, Melanie Aerhart and Mercedes Lewis.
Terry Mills, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, is the client for this particular group of five. Students were given a list of different options of what they could potentially put on and they chose Mills’ suggestion of Edwin’s. When asked why they chose Edwin’s, Hippler said, “It is a chance to learn something we take with us the rest of our lives.”
Students had to form a professional proposal with concrete details as to what food they would use through catering, the facilities they would use and how they would use the budget Mills gave them. “It is a good opportunity to understand the scope of what is involved in event planning. It is more than most people realize,” said Finucane.
Mills considers himself a regular at Edwin’s, which is located on Shaker Square in Cleveland, and brought the group of students there to eat and experience the restaurant. The menus at the Institute display the mission of providing a second chance and the emphasis on education. Rosario said, “This shows customers the purpose of what Brandon is trying to do and [in turn] what we are trying to do by bringing him to campus.”
Motown music is played throughout this five star French restaurant. Chrostowski is from Detroit and said that despite customer complaints, he keeps the music the same because it is, “who we are.” Mills said, “For a business owner to take that position is a bold and striking dichotomy of being in the restaurant.”
Formerly incarcerated adults who come to the Institute are trained in all aspects of the restaurant business from host, to bartender, to waiter, and most prominently, cooking. Students are trained in how to cook French cuisine as well as learn the geography behind each dish they make. Over 90 percent of students who leave the program move on to other major establishments for employment. Mills said, “Clearly the work Edwin’s is doing is about personal justice, care for the whole person and doing things for the greater good,” Mills continued, “This is an application of the notions of a Jesuit education.”
Hippler said, “It is important for us to learn acceptance. Just because they have made mistakes, doesn’t mean they are bad people.”
Chrostowski gave a presentation on his restaurant at the City Cleveland Club in front of judges, attorneys and criminal justice members where it was standing room only. Mills said this was indicative of the interest in the work he’s doing. “I am hoping student share the same interest.”