2013-02-08 / Front Page

Out of school shadow; on the job

Middle School students take part in Junior Achievement program
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

PORTLAND—While other students in the Scarborough school district were sitting in their school cafeteria eating lunch, a group of 24 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade Scarborough Middle School students were dining at DiMillo’s On the Water, a family-owned and operated restaurant on Commercial Street that offers some of the best views of Portland Harbor.

The students – all students in Mary Ann page’s homeroom – were at the 30-year old restaurant Friday, Feb. 1, as part of Job Shadow Day, an annual event held by Junior Achievement of Maine.

According to its website, Junior Achievement is an organization aimed at “educating students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experimental, hands-on programs.”

“Junior Achievement is very popular for middle school students because it is outof the-classroom learning,” said Michelle Anderson, the organization’s Marketing and Greater Portland Program Director.


DiMillo’s on the Water chef Melissa Bouchard, above, shows one of the fresh Maine lobsters the restaurant uses in its dishes to a group of students from Scarborough Middle School during a tour of the restaurant. The students also met with bar manager Chelsea DiMillo, left. The group was at the restaurant, a landmark on Commercial Street in Portland, to learn about what it takes to operate a restaurant as part of Junior Achievement’s Job Shadow Day. (Michael Kelley photos) DiMillo’s on the Water chef Melissa Bouchard, above, shows one of the fresh Maine lobsters the restaurant uses in its dishes to a group of students from Scarborough Middle School during a tour of the restaurant. The students also met with bar manager Chelsea DiMillo, left. The group was at the restaurant, a landmark on Commercial Street in Portland, to learn about what it takes to operate a restaurant as part of Junior Achievement’s Job Shadow Day. (Michael Kelley photos) The students were led on a tour of the restaurant by restaurant manager Johnny DiMillo, whose father, Tony purchased the old car ferry in 1980 and opened the restaurant, originally known as DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant, in 1982.

“I was hoping the students see this is not just about cooking lobsters or pouring drinks,” said DiMillo, a manager of the restaurant. “There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t see.”


Server Nick DiDonato takes the orders of several Scarborough Middle School students at the end of a morning tour of DiMillo’s on the Water Friday, Feb. 1. The students got a behindthe scenes look at the restaurant, which is housed in an old car ferry on the Portland waterfront. (Michael Kelley photo) Server Nick DiDonato takes the orders of several Scarborough Middle School students at the end of a morning tour of DiMillo’s on the Water Friday, Feb. 1. The students got a behindthe scenes look at the restaurant, which is housed in an old car ferry on the Portland waterfront. (Michael Kelley photo) One of the stops on the behind-thescenes tour was the kitchen, where the students met kitchen manager Tony Quattrucci and head chef Melissa Bouchard, who shared with the group that food preparation begins at 7:30 a.m. in order to have the restaurant open for lunch at 11 a.m.

This stop was a favorite of sixth-grade student Jane Greenberg.

“I liked it when we went into the kitchen and we met the chefs and learned how they cook and what their favorite meals to make were,” Greenberg said, just prior to sitting down for lunch. “I learned a lot about how they cook.”


After a tour of DiMillo’s on the Water, 24 students from Scarborough Middle School were treated to lunch in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms, which overlook Portland Harbor. (Michael Kelley photo) After a tour of DiMillo’s on the Water, 24 students from Scarborough Middle School were treated to lunch in one of the restaurant’s dining rooms, which overlook Portland Harbor. (Michael Kelley photo) After a tour of the kitchen, the students headed to the bar to meet Chelsea DiMillo, the restaurant’s bar manager, before sitting in on a morning meeting between Fern Cyr, who has been managing the dining room for 20 years, and the wait staff. Among topics brought up during the meeting were menu changes, including switching from a processed French fry to a hand cut, freshly made French fry, and reservations on the schedule that afternoon and evening.

Ellie Smith, a seventh-grade student, said she found the meeting and the preparations that go into running a restaurant interesting.

“It showed how they set everything up and how workers are assigned to different stations and how they need to plan ahead,” Smith said.

The final stop on the tour was to the office of Johnny DiMillo’s sister, Stephanie Quattrucci, who takes care of payroll and bookkeeping for the restaurant and its 100-plus employees.

“It is cool how it is a family-owned restaurant and how there is so much history to the restaurant and to the boat and how it was evolved to serve Portland,” Smith said.

In 1982 the restaurant opened in “The New York” an old 1940s car ferry that operated between Delaware and New Jersey. In 1951 it was sold to the state of Virginia, which renamed it “The Norfolk” to run between Norfolk and Hampton, Va. The state of Rhode Island bought it in 1958 to run between Newport and Jamestown, RI, before selling it in 1969 to Pawtucket, RI to be used as a youth art center. For three years, beginning in 1977, the boat was used as the clubhouse for the Setauket Yacht Club in Jefferson, NY.

Seventh-grade student Kade Woolverton said he was surprised to see the restaurant was located in a repurposed boat.

“A lot of places say they are on the water,” he said. “This one really is.”

While this is the first time DiMillo’s has participated in the Junior Achievement Job Shadow Day, Johnny DiMillo said the restaurant is well-versed with educating a new generation of restaurant workers.

“This is not unlike what we are already doing. We got a third generation coming onto the boat,” DiMillo said of Chelsea, his niece and Steven DiMillo Jr., her brother, who works as the restaurant’s banquet manager. “We took them under our wing and tried to pass along the knowledge and experience we’ve gained along the way. We feel like we have something to show to another generation outside our family (with this job shadow day).”

The morning at DiMillo’s was a much different experience than last year’s job shadowing day at WMTW, a Portland television station, or the one the year before when Page’s class traveled to the Portland office of MEMIC, a workers’ compensation insurance company.

“I think it was a really great experience to learn about this restaurant because it is different than any other restaurant,” Greenberg said.

Page said while the experiences differ with every job shadow site, the goal always remains the same.

“This is a way for kids to see what kind of jobs are out there, expose them to different careers so they can see the value of education and the connection of education and the workplace,” Page said.

Page said although the job shadow days are geared toward her students, they are experiences she always gains from.

“I like to see what I can bring into the classroom. I learn from each of these experiences too,” Page said. “This exposes me to other jobs out there so I can think of ways to bring it into what we are learning in math and science.”

Upon returning to the middle school classroom, Page said the students will draft a thank-you note to the staff at DiMillo’s and write a personal reflection on their Junior Achievement experience. That reflection, she said, will be put in their writing portfolio and shared with the students’ parents or guardians.

“This is always a great day,” Page said. “The kids always remember it. It’s one of those things that when you leave middle school, you remember.”

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