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Cooking for Success: Aspiring chef slices her obstacles

Amber Phillips

ECC student Amber Phillips.

Amber Phillips worked hard to make her dreams come true. Last February, she was in the perfect position to return the favor.

Phillips, a student of Elgin Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program, played a critical role during a recent episode of Food Network’s “Food Court Wars,” helping Glutton Force 5 win the competition.

“I don’t think we could’ve gotten it done without her,” says Tim Brown, a member of Glutton Force 5 and co-owner of Taco in a Bag, the restaurant spot he and teammate Pat Bertoletti won at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee. “She was amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.” 

Phillips, of Elgin, is touched by the words:

It just gives me goosebumps to hear that. Everyone who knows me, knows the struggles of my life. It’s nice to see all that hard work pay off.

Growing up in a troubled home, Phillips moved out at age 15. She worked to support herself and ultimately had to drop out of school. But she returned to get her GED and later enrolled at ECC. She entered the culinary program in 2011.

Phillips has been very involved in the program, serving as president of its Hospitality Club. She also was a member of a culinary team that traveled to France in March.

Her success has her on “cloud nine right now.” She currently works and interns at The Public House in downtown Elgin.

Phillips expects to graduate next spring. She plans to tour the world honing her culinary skills before opening her own restaurant. She also wants to help troubled teens by showing them that, like her, they can achieve success.

“Only you can stop yourself,” says Phillips. “You can do what you want to do. I’m glad that I can pay this forward.” 


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