SHAKER SQUARE -- From prison to the kitchen to the Oscars, Chef Brandon Chrostowski's road to success has been an unlikely one.
Now, the former mayoral candidate is the star of a Oscar-nominated film, as the 40-minute documentary "Knife Skills" was announced as a contender for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.
Chrostowski's road to success started with a pretty big stumble, when he was busted for drug possession.
"I was young, like many of us, and dumb, like many more of us -- just on the wrong path of life," says Chrostowski. "I got arrested, was thrown in jail, facing 5-10 years in prison."
After receiving probation, Christowski met a chef who would who become his mentor.
"My life had completely changed when someone took me under their wing and gave me an equal chance," says Chrostowski.
He wanted to pay it forward. So, he founded EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, offering a 6-month training program in culinary arts and hospitality to people re-entering the workforce after incarceration.
Back in 2013, filmmaker Thomas Lennon caught wind of the program and decided to document it, as the group geared up to open EDWINS restaurant, a French eatery on Shaker Square.
"What Tom captured in this film was the truth. The truth of coming home…The trials, the tribulations, the temptations... He's captured the good, the bad, and the ugly, says Christowski.
Production lasted for years, giving the filmaker a chance to follow students through graduation and beyond.
"I was surprised! When they told me I passed my final exam, I almost cried," says EDWINS graduate Tiyo Suljolo.
Suljolo, featured in the film, says he was in and out of prison for minor offenses until EDWINS gave him a new path.
"I ain't Top Chef," says Suljolo. "I'm not Chef Ramsey or all those big guys yet, but I'm working on it."
EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute has now graduated over 220 students, with 95% of those finding employment.
According to Chrostowski, only 1% reoffend, compared to the national average of 40% who end up back in the system.
The curriculum is now also in 13 different prisons, giving convicts vocational training and a head-start for when they are released.
"EDWINS is hope," says Christowski.
That message could now go world-wide, thanks to an Oscar nod.
"We're working to make sure that truth gets spread," says Christowski, "That it is possible to overcome."
Learn more about EDWINS here.
Chef Brandon Chrostowski was in-studio for Tuesday's Donovan Live, sitting with Jim Donovan to talk about what all the Hollywood attention could mean for a project that has been close to his heart for years. Watch in the player below:
The Academy Awards will be given out at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California at 8:00 p.m. EST on March 4, 2018.
Watch the trailer for "Knife Skills" below: