Authentic French dining in the heart of Medina at Sérénité

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Brandon Chrostowski’s Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute is a new jewel in the glittering regional crown that is Medina’s historic downtown. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Mitch Allen

Brandon Chrostowski is younger than his graying hair suggests and he’s tall, with a fast, high-energy personality that may very well keep him thin forever.

He jogs up and down the narrow stairwells at both of his Cleveland-area French restaurants and is forced to duck his head to avoid striking the low ceilings in the tiny transition areas between kitchens and offices. His piercing blue eyes alternate between actively listening to you and wandering off as if you’ve just given him another brilliant idea.

With the popularity of Knife Skills—the 2018 Academy Award-nominated documentary about the grand opening of his Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Shaker Square—Brandon has been busier than usual, dashing from city to city to give interviews and speeches, including the recent commencement address at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, of which he is a celebrated alum.

During all of the national buzz created by the Academy Awards, Brandon was simultaneously opening his newest venture—Sérénité Restaurant & Culinary Institute—on Medina’s Liberty Street just west of the Square in the former location of Medina Steakhouse & Saloon.

Like Edwins in Shaker Square, Sérénité also features classic French cuisine (not simply an American interpretation) and is much more than a restaurant; it is a non-profit institute dedicated to providing training in culinary arts and the hospitality industry.

While Edwins focuses on training those reentering society from prison, Medina’s new Sérénité helps those in recovery.

A More Powerful ‘Yes’
“I’m all about seeing problems and fixing problems,” Brandon says in his quick, direct style.

“We have a philosophy here where you win. Little wins build self-esteem. Learning knife skills, for example, is a win that sets up a more powerful yes—a yes to a new life, a new career, instead of a yes to drugs.”

And he adds (with such sincere passion that I thought he was talking about me): “Regardless of your past circumstances, you are absolutely at the right place in life.”

I asked Brandon directly about the wisdom of allowing people in recovery to work around alcohol and he did not hesitate.

“Just because someone has a past doesn’t mean it dictates their future,” he says. “It’s not up to us to dictate someone’s potential. We’re developing tomorrow’s leaders in the hospitality business and that includes food and wine. We teach the fundamentals so you can leave here and go to any restaurant in the world and succeed.”

Who Is This Guy?
In addition to his training at the Culinary Institute of America, Brandon has a long and impressive vitae. After graduation, he apprenticed at Chicago’s legendary Charlie Trotters and worked at Lucas Carton—Paris’ longest standing Michelin 3-star restaurant—where he learned the intricacies of a French kitchen.

After Europe, Brandon landed in New York City where he joined Le Cirque as a chef de partie, then as a saucier at Picholine before developing his professional table skills at Le Pavillon. He then learned wine at New York City’s Chanterelle—a James Beard award-winning restaurant—where he worked closely with Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn.

In 2008, Brandon became certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers in his own right and knew by then that he wanted to leverage his hard-won skills to help others succeed.

“I consciously chose to come to Cleveland because at the time they had the highest high school dropout rate in the country,” he explains. “This is where I needed to be.”

As a result, Brandon moved to Cleveland and became general manager, fromager (cheesemonger) and sommelier of L’Albatros Brasserie in Cleveland’s University Circle.

Brandon’s team at Sérénité includes executive chef Gilbert Brenot (pronounced jil-BEHR bray-KNOW) who hails from Les Landes, France, which is wedged between Bordeaux and the northern Spanish border, a region famous for duck confit, foie gras, wild mushrooms and other French delicacies. You’ll find Chef Gilbert in the kitchen in Medina almost every night.

The Fundamentals

While in New York, Brandon wrote the business plan for his leadership institute, including the curriculum, which at Sérénité in Medina is an eight-month program.

“It’s all about the French fundamentals of ratios and technique,” he says. “It’s 3-2-1 for pie dough. Three parts flour, 2 fat, 1 cold liquid. Once you know the ratios and the cutting technique you can make pie dough around the world. From sauces to pastries to stock, it’s all about ratios.”

Sérénité’s program includes gastronomy (the history of food), culinary math, ServSafe (a food and beverage safe handling certification), meat and fish butchering, stocks and sauces, pastries, wine 101, liquor and beer, and the fundamentals of table service.

It should come as no surprise that the hospitality industry is eager to hire Brandon’s graduates, who now number over 250.

Sérénité Restaurant
Brandon says the story of Sérénité began when two Medina County Common Pleas Court judges—Judge Chris Collier and Judge Joyce Kimbler—expressed their frustration to Medina County Adult Probation Department president Veronica Perry about the same faces showing up again and again in their courtrooms on opioid charges.

“There were 10-percent more overdoes in 2017 than in 2016 so the judges knew that what we were doing wasn’t working,” Brandon explains. “We needed a different approach.”

Veronica had heard about Brandon’s successful work in both prisons and at Edwins and connected him to the Recovery Center of Medina County, resulting in a partnership that led to the March 2018 opening of Sérénité.

The Menu
Although Sérénité is a French restaurant, you shouldn’t think of it as “a special occasion place.” It is “upscale casual” rather than fine dining and is remarkably unpretentious. You’d be perfectly comfortable in a suit or in blue jeans.

“We’re an authentic French restaurant with a real French chef,” Brandon insists. “It’s food that feeds the soul. That’s all it is.”

The menu features Plateau de Fruits de Mer (literally plate of the fruits of the sea) which includes oysters, mussels, crab claws, shrimp cocktail and lobster tails.

Some menu showstoppers include the Frog Legs (Chef Gilbert’s own recipe from Les Landes), the Charcuterie, Goat Cheese Tart, Duck Confit, Moulle Frites (steamed mussels and French fries), Trout Almondine, Coq Au Vin, the New York Strip au Poivre, the Filet Bernaise, and French Mac & Cheese.

Warm Goat Cheese Tart

Chef Gilbert's Frog Legs

Moulle Frites

Coq Au Vin

Desserts include Chocolate Mousse and Bananas Foster prepared tableside. The 100+ bottle wine list is Eurocentric but features plenty of Californian bottles, too. You’ll also find vegan and vegetarian options.

Reservations are strongly suggested especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

At the end of an evening at Sérénité, you’ll discover that you have personally experienced the restaurant’s simple but profound mission:

To eat well and do good.

Sérénité Restaurant is located at 538 W. Liberty Street, in Medina. The phone number is 330-952-2611. For more information, visit or