It is a tale from the town I will always call home, though it could be from any town really. Knife Skills is an Oscar-nominated documentary which records the weeks leading up to the opening of a restaurant. But not just any restaurant, one where the entire staff is made up of formerly incarcerated adults.
Opening a restaurant is difficult, but with an entire staff of first-time cooks transitioning out of prison, the task might seem impossible. Knife Skills, the Academy Award-nominated short documentary by director Thomas Lennon, follows Brandon Edwin Chrostowski as he launches EDWINS, a fine dining restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio that trains formerly incarcerated adults in culinary skills and employs them in the hospitality industry. Chrostowski is a trained chef, sommelier, and former inmate himself. As the self-proclaimed patron saint of prisoners, he is giving men and women a second chance through food.
The film begins six weeks prior to the restaurant’s opening night as the inaugural class gets fitted for chef jackets and quizzed on the five mother sauces. In those weeks they must learn to prepare the 25 classic French dishes on the menu, from steak frites to a Nicoise salad, while also taking crash courses in French wine and cheese.
Cleveland actually has a pretty solid food scene. It is the hometown of Chefs Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman, and many others. I don’t know anyone who has eaten at EDWINS yet, but I once ate at a Mexican restaurant at that location on Shaker Square.