MANCHESTER -- Tony Small, Jr. says he grew up in the kitchen. But after going to a culinary high school in Hartford, he felt a little lost.
“It was like, yay, I graduated high school, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” said Small.
His sister told him about the MACC chefs program. Tony says he learned more there than in his four years of high school. After completing the program, he was offered a job as a server at Bistro on Main, a social enterprise owned and operated by MACC Charities.
“In other words, we’re a full-service restaurant, but our bottom line isn’t our bottom line. We’re really a training restaurant, where we’re helping people break cycles of poverty by people who face barriers to employment develop the skills they need to excel within the hospitality industry,” said Ben Dubow, GM and Executive Chef for Bistro on Main.
The restaurant has been open for a year now.
“It’s amazing to see how some of the staff developed. The first night we opened, I remember looking back at the line, and there wasn’t a single person there that had done a hot line before. It was a crazy way to open a restaurant. Now we look back there on a Saturday night, and there are actual line cooks, and they’re doing it. They’re opening tickets and they’re communicating with each other, and you can tell it’s really working,” said Dubow.
The restaurant is helped by funds raised by the Manchester Road Race. The Manchester Road Race Honors Club presented MACC with a check for $8400.
“It’s a really large piece of funding that we get, that we use for programming, both in terms of the culinary jobs training, but also in terms of our community kitchen and our pantry,” said Dubow.
The people who dine at Bistro on Main say it’s great to see an establishment providing such a service to the community, but they also say you can’t beat the meals here.
“We love it here. It’s awesome. We’ve come for dinner. We come for happy hour. I love the farm to table concept, it’s delicious,” said Lori Panora of South Windsor.
They say the service is great, too, because people like Tony are learning the art of serving.
“Even though I’m trying to get better at it, I love doing those tables, talking to my customers. I like building a customer-server relationship,” said Small.