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Robby's Voice, board at odds over alcohol sales at restaurant

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    From left, Michael Flaherty, Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier, county Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry and Stefanie Robinson, director of operations at the Recovery Center of Medina County, listen to Brandon Chrostowski, founder of the nonprofit Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, explain plans Thursday for the culinary institute and restaurant at the center.

    LIZ SHEAFFER / GAZETTE

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    Brandon Chrostowski, founder of the nonprofit Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, discusses plans for the culinary program and Serenite Restaurant at the Recovery Center of Medina County on Thursday in Medina.

    LIZ SHEAFFER / GAZETTE

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    Gilbert Brenot will be the executive chef at Serenite Restaurant at the Recovery Center of Medina County in Medina.

    LIZ SHEAFFER / GAZETTE

  • 0201218Recovery03LS-JPG

    Brandon Chrostowski, founder of the nonprofit Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, discusses plans for the culinary program and Serenite Restaurant at the Recovery Center of Medina County on Thursday in Medina.

    LIZ SHEAFFER / GAZETTE

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    Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier, second from left, says Thursday he understands people’s concerns about serving alcohol at Serenite Restaurant, but it’s important to give the students the best culinary program possible. Also pictured, from left, Michael Flaherty, general manager of Serenite; county Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry; and Stefanie Robinson, director of operations at the Recovery Center of Medina County.

    LIZ SHEAFFER / GAZETTE

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22840637

From left, Michael Flaherty, Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier, county Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry and Stefanie Robinson, director of operations at the Recovery Center of Medina County, listen to Brandon Chrostowski, founder of the nonprofit Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, explain plans Thursday for the culinary institute and restaurant at the center.

LIZ SHEAFFER / GAZETTE Enlarge

MEDINA — A culinary institute and restaurant is expected to open in six to eight weeks at the Recovery Center of Medina County, formerly known as Robby’s Recovery Center.

Serenite Restaurant will be a full-service restaurant, including serving alcohol.

Medina resident Rob Brandt, interim board president of the center, said in a statement on his Facebook page, he has “very firm beliefs opposed to the presence of alcohol as part of a recovery center.”

Brandt, founder of the nonprofit Robby’s Voice following the death of his son, Robby, to a heroin overdose in 2011, was not available for further comment Thursday.

Robby’s Voice operates the center, created with a $300,000 grant secured by Medina County Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation.

The decision to serve alcohol at Serenite was made by Perry and common pleas judges Christopher J. Collier and Joyce V. Kimbler.

There have been discussions about moving the recovery center and programs to a different location, Kimbler said.

“We are presently looking at a nearby property,” she said.

For the time being, programs and meetings will be held on the second floor of the recovery center, officials said.

Serenite Restaurant will take over the first floor, which formerly housed Medina Steakhouse and Saloon before it closed at 538 W. Liberty St., and the steakhouse’s liquor permit will be transferred to Serenite, said chef Brandon Chrostowski, who will run the culinary program and restaurant.

Culinary program

Chrostowski is founder of the nonprofit Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute, 13101 Shaker Square, Cleveland. It gives adults who were incarcerated a chance to learn and work in the hospitality industry. Edwins also is the subject of the documentary “Knife Skills,” which has been nominated for an Academy Award.

The program has had success and critical acclaim in the rehabilitation and recovery community, Chrostowski said at a news conference Thursday at the Recovery Center.

He said he got involved with the Medina restaurant largely because of the passion shown by Perry, who manages the recovery program on the court’s behalf; Stefanie Robinson, director of operations; and the two judges.

“I’ve been inspired by the team here,” Chrostowski said.

As far as serving alcohol, Chrostowski said people need to be ready to move forward with their lives. He said he serves alcohol at Edwins, as well, where he’s had about 200 students graduate in the last four years.

“We did not need to be talked into (serving alcohol),” Perry said. “Edwins is a successful model.”

Collier said he understands people’s concerns, but it’s important to give the students the best culinary program possible.

“If not, it’s a waste of their time,” Collier said. “I know the success Edwins has had up there. (Chrostowski) wants to do that here. He’s the real deal. He’s tackled some of the issues of people dealing with recovery.”

Those in opposition to serving alcohol “are not seeing the full breadth of it,” Kimbler said.

Chrostowski said participants in the program will learn more than how to prepare food. There will be life skills, health and wellness, peer support, recovery support and sponsorship. Students will be paid to attend. Over the course of the eight months, they will learn every position in the restaurant and complete a short apprenticeship at another fine restaurant.

Rob Brandt’s father, Bob, vice president of Robby’s Voice, said: “Our position is clear. You can’t do alcohol in a recovery center. But we don’t want to get into an argument with the court system.”

The restaurant

Serenite, a 60-seat restaurant, will serve steaks, chicken and fish, among other items, in a French fine-dining atmosphere.

“It will be a full-service restaurant,” Chrostowski said. “It will be casual to high end. It will be chic and affordable.”

Medina resident Michael Flaherty will be the restaurant’s general manager and Gilbert Brenot will be the executive chef.

Flaherty said despite a history in recovery, he’s able to have an occasional drink if he goes out to dinner.

“I don’t think about doing heroin,” he said. “People have to prepare themselves for the real world. If you’re serving fine cuisine, alcohol is served.”

Applications are being accepted from anyone in the recovery community who wants to learn the techniques of classic French cuisine while earning a living and assistance with job placement, all within an environment of strength and support.

Chrostowski said he hopes to get at least a dozen candidates for the eight-month program. Serenite’s grand opening will overlap that training, and classes will start in three to five weeks, he said.

Chrostowski said Edwins will serve in a consulting role to Serenite.

“We’re prepared to go full tilt,” he said. “I hope people give us a chance. We’re here to fight.”

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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