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Restaurant course stirs up confidence in Portland-area teens

My Place Teen Center is a free, year-round after-school program that gives kids a safe place to hang out and a nutritious meal to eat.

PORTLAND, Maine — My Place Teen Center is a self-proclaimed "oasis", open to any kid ages 10 to 18 years old in need of a place to hang out and a meal to eat.

The organization serves many kids who have few resources. Some are even homeless. MPTC is open every weekday during the year, serving anywhere from 50 to 100 kids per day. 

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MPTC runs several enrichment programs for its students, from STEM to life skills and restaurant training.  

That program is headed by Christian Kryger, a former head chef of Fore Street and Bar Lola in Portland. 

"My own childhood had some ups and downs. I understand what it is to be in a tough spot, and now I'm in the position to help. That's exciting for me," Kryger said.

The course is ten weeks long and limited to one small group of kids. That way, Kryger has one-on-one time with each student. They kids are learning job-related life-skills, like clocking in and interviewing. They're also learning how to budget and follow recipes, as they cook dinner for the rest of the teens. 

The students have the opportunity to visit area restaurants and participate in various tastings as part of the etiquette portion of their training.  

"Napkin on their lap and elbows off the table. The volume at which they're speaking at the table. Using their utensils properly. Just setting a real foundation," Kryger said. 

Students say participating in this program pays off. 

"It's very rewarding," Molly Mitchell said.

"It makes me feel special," Paul Lok said.

My Place Teen Center is looking to expand into a second location in Biddeford. They would continue the same programming in that new space and would be able to serve up to 1,000 kids. 

Click here for more information on My Place Teen Center's Capital Campaign.

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