When Brandon Chrostowski heard the short documentary about him was nominated for an Oscar, he shrugged. “We don’t have a television. I could give two shits. Here’s another award, more national recognition that’s going to keep the seats filled and spread the mission,” says the chef and founder of Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute. “It wasn’t until a week or two later when I was like, this is f---ing big.” Nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary (short subject), Knife Skills follows Chrostowski’s quest to start Edwins, where he trains formerly incarcerated adults for food industry jobs. Though the film didn’t nab the prize March 4, Chrostowski was just pleased with the nomination when we spoke to him before he jetted to California for the awards ceremony.
Q: Why did you want to do this movie?
A. It was the ability to have someone capture the [restaurant] opening and spread the mission of what happens when you give someone a fair and equal opportunity in regards to their past.
Q: The movie came out last year. You’ve lived with it for a while. How many times do you think you’ve seen it?
A. Too many f---ing times.
Q: An Oscar nomination is a big deal for a filmmaker, but you’re the subject of this movie. It’s about you. How does that feel?
A: I didn’t even think about what the awards mean to society and culture. It’s a big thing. Now I’m excited. At first, like the  CNN Heroes award, that’s great. But you’ve got so much work to do, you don’t focus on the moment, nor is this why we set out to do this. It was to come here and just hop on this. But now I’m thinking, Wow, this is very powerful.
Q: There are instances in the movie where you make mistakes. Having seen those mistakes so many times, what does it feel like to watch yourself?
A. I’m very in tune with my instincts. I trust them. So I look back and say, “Hey, it was the right call.” I don’t ever look back and say, “That was the wrong call.” Your body will tell you something at that time before your mind does. You go with it. And you’ve seen the results now. We’re going on year five [at Edwins]. It’s successful. We have a very healthy and positive culture. We’ve expanded the campus. You have to do that based on a pitch. My pitch is trust your instincts and pull high standards.
Q: Last year, you and I talked about how you had mixed feelings watching the film’s last scene, which was supposed to be a private message to your infant son. When you’ve watched the movie since, is there anything in that moment you see differently?
A. The end scene — I hated the end scene at first. No one likes to see themselves weeping. But I got a letter from inside Grafton [Correctional Institution]. We screened the film inside there. One of the inmates wrote back. I’ve known him five to six years now. He wrote back and said, “Seeing that movie made me realize that, one: no one else is better than me. We’re all flawed. And two: regardless of what he’s done to get there, he’s going to make a success of his life.” That letter made me realize that last scene isn’t so bad.