Cleveland restaurant owner travels to Poland to cook for refugees

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Usually when it comes to Brandon Chrostowski’s mission to support and train people to have a second chance in life, he remains focused on Cleveland. But this weekend, he’s branching out to help people who need help right now.

Branching out – like at 4,600 miles.

Chrostowski is due to fly to Przemysl, Poland today – Saturday, April 2 – to work at World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit founded by chef José Andrés. Chrostowski is due back on Wednesday, April 6.

Przemysl is about 8 km from the Ukrainian border.

The restaurateur, owner of Edwins – the fine-dining French restaurant in Shaker Square – will work from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. cooking for the refugees and doing “whatever it takes”, he said.

“As soon as this war broke out, I thought, ‘What can I do?’ That was my first thought,” said Chrostowski, who is of Polish and Irish descent. “It’s been a bear to connect.”

Chrostowski said Sen. Rob Portman helped facilitate the logistics of the trip. He recently came to Edwins for dinner, and the two have known each other for a few years, Chrostowski said.

“He’s a great, great second-chance guy,” he said of Portman. “He’s a solid guy.”

Thanks to the administrative maneuvers of Portman and the support of the Marianne and Ben Gogolick Donor Advised Fund as well as retired judge Chuck Bauernschmidt, Chrostowski is able to make the trip a success. He will take a short break from running Edwins, which hires and trains recently released incarcerated people to work in fine dining restaurants.

With a 15 hour flight and time difference, he will arrive in Poland at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Przemysl, which has a population of around 65,000, is no stranger to wartime conflict. Over the centuries, it fell under Austrian, Russian and Polish rule. It counts food processing as one of many industries.

Andrés started World Central Kitchen in 2010 after an earthquake ravaged Haiti, cooking alongside displaced Haitians in a camp. The nonprofit’s website states its simple mission: “After a disaster, food is the fastest way to rebuild our sense of community.”

The organization has worked in the aftermath of hurricanes, as fires burned and amid the Covid crisis. Now he is focusing on Ukrainian food aid.

“I’m going to pack my bag – singular – and head for Przemysl,” Chrostowski said.

It is estimated that more than 4 million people left Ukraine in the weeks following Russia’s invasion of the Eastern European nation. About half of these refugees entered Poland.

Related coverage

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A Ukrainian-born chef in Cleveland has a simple hope: Learn about refugees

Elevation Festivals aims to raise $100,000 for Ukrainian relief

Cleveland Independents restaurants highlight Stoli brand in solidarity with Ukraine

Forest City Brewery raises funds for the Ukrainian Red Cross

I am on cleveland.comfrom the Life and Culture team and covers topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I usually talk food and drink at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.

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