Edwins Restaurant Staff - CNN

This high-end French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio has a knack for serving up more than just a good meal – they serve up a sense of purpose for ex-offenders who need a second chance.

Having to check a box that marks you as a felon on your job application can seriously damage the chances of being hired; that’s why almost every employee at Edwins restaurant is so grateful for the work.

The owner of the restaurant, Brandon Chrostowski, is passionate about giving offenders the same second chance that he had when he was young.

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“I was a reckless teenager, and one night, I was arrested and thrown in jail,” Brandon told CNN. “Fortunately, I had a judge who gave me a break instead of 10 years in prison. While I was on probation, I met a chef who mentored me –and once I was in that kitchen, I knew that’s where I belonged for the rest of my life.”

During the day, workers are given intensive culinary training and lectures involving wine education and food prep. When the night rolls around, the staff puts these lessons into action, cooking for actual customers.

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His nonprofit program provides 40-50 hours of training each week for six months. Students get a weekly stipend, as well as a portion of the donations left by diners in lieu of tips. A full-time caseworker helps them with housing, counseling or getting a driver’s license.

It’s a recipe that seems to be working. Chrostowski says 114 students have graduated, more than 90% of them are employed, and none have returned to prison.

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“Edwins is a family. There’s a spirit in here where we’re in this together. To have a second chance is to have a new life. And if you’re ready to work hard, you can change the stars.”

(WATCH the CNN Heroes video below)


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