Amanda Dobbs’ life was never stable: she was raised by a single mother on welfare; her family was constantly moving; and when her mom was in a severe car crash, Amanda had to care for her family at nine years old.

Throughout her life, Amanda battled with depression. For a period of time, she was institutionalized for depression and lost her home after being unable to pay rent. But cooking changed everything.

Through a friend of a friend, Amanda learned about Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK), a 14-week adult culinary arts vocational job training program that promotes the self-sufficiency of low-income women and men by preparing them to work in commercial kitchens. The program was appealing to her because she was determined to get her ServSafe Certificate, which typically costs hundreds of dollars, but is free to those in the program.


Cooking is such a rewarding industry; without PCK and those who donate to support it, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my newfound passion.

After dropping out of the Art Institute and unsuccessfully finishing other culinary programs, Amanda applied to PCK and was accepted into the Winter 2015 class. When Amanda reflects on what made PCK different than past experiences, she says it was the added life skills component that helped her ultimately succeed. “I came into this program like a caterpillar but I was determined to come out like a butterfly.”

Through PCK, Amanda improved her cooking skills, learned how to work fast on her feet and how to change her attitude and focus, which, along with good grades, led her to become valedictorian of her graduating class in January 2016.

“Cooking is such a rewarding industry; without PCK and those who donate to support it, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my newfound passion.”

Since graduating, Amanda and her husband have started their own catering business, Virtuous Foods and Events, for which they have been able to hire fellow PCK alumni for larger engagements. “I have always wanted to be my own boss, and the PCK program brought that dream back to life for me.”

In addition to her catering company, Amanda is also working with her son’s school to develop a program where students learn how to eat healthy, grow their own vegetables, source products from local farmers and understand from where the food they consume comes from.

Amanda currently serves as the demo chef for the school’s Family Education Night. To continue her culinary arts training and qualify for the American Culinary Federation, Amanda is enrolling at Top Chef University and in the Culinary and Pastry Arts programs at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts to continue pursuing her dreams, thanks to PCK.