Cleveland restaurant owner travels to Poland to cook for refugees

CLEVELAND, Ohio – When it comes to Brandon Chrostowski’s mission of empowering and educating people to have a second chance at life, his focus is usually on Cleveland. But this weekend he’s branching out to help people who need help right now.

Junction—like 4,600 miles away.

Chrostowski will fly to Przemysl, Poland today – Saturday 2 April – to work at World Central Kitchen, the non-profit organization founded by chef José Andrés. Chrostowski is scheduled to return on Wednesday, April 6.

Przemysl is about 8 km from the Ukrainian border.

The restaurateur who owns Edwins – the fine-dining French restaurant on Shaker Square – will work 9am to 7pm, cooking for refugees and “doing whatever it takes,” he said.

“When this war broke out, I thought, ‘What can I do?’ That was my first thought,” said Chrostowski, who has Polish and Irish roots. “It was a bear to make a connection.”

Chrostowski said Senator Rob Portman was instrumental in smoothing out the logistics of the trip. He recently dined at Edwins, and the two have known each other for a number of years, Chrostowski said.

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

With Portman’s bureaucratic maneuvering and the support of the Marianne and Ben Gogolick Donor Advised Fund and retired judge Chuck Bauernschmidt, Chrostowski is able to pull off the trip. He takes a brief hiatus from running Edwins, which hires and trains recently released inmates to work in fine-dining restaurants.

After a 15-hour flight and a time difference, he arrives in Poland at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Przemysl, home to about 65,000 people, is no stranger to wartime conflicts. For centuries it was under Austrian, Russian and Polish rule. It counts food processing as one of several industries.

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

The organization has worked in the aftermath of hurricanes, blazing fires and amid the Covid crisis. Now it focuses on Ukrainian food aid.

“I’ll pack my bag – singular – and go to Przemysl,” Chrostowski said.

It is estimated that more than 4 million people have fled Ukraine in the weeks since Russia invaded the eastern European nation. About half of these refugees entered Poland.

Related Reporting

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The Ukrainian-born chef in Cleveland has a simple hope: educate yourself about refugees

Elevation Festivals aim to raise $100,000 for Ukrainian relief efforts

Cleveland Independents restaurants highlight Stoli brand in solidarity with Ukraine

Forest City Brewery raises money for the Ukrainian Red Cross

I am online cleveland.com‘s Life and Culture team and cover topics related to food, beer, wine and sports. If you want to see my stories Here is a directory on cleveland.com. WTAM-1100’s Bill Wills and I usually talk about food and drink on Thursday mornings at 8:20 am. Twitter: @mbona30.

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