Cooking up a career at Pinellas Technical College

Infiniti Phillips overcame the trauma of the foster care system and plans to become a business owner.

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

PINELLAS COUNTY – Infiniti Phillips is baking for a future. Just 21, she has a plan, and the drive, to make a career in the service industry. And she’s popping out culinary delights that promise to get your mouth watering.

Obtaining a certificate or degree is a milestone for many, but Phillips’ path has not been a smooth ride. Although she’s set to graduate this month from Pinellas Technical College with a certificate in Baking & Pastry Arts, Phillips has endured a lifetime of hardship.

“It’s been long and rough.  It’s been hard,” she said.

Phillips never pictured her future would include going to college. A foster child for most of her life, she never believed it was in the cards. With six siblings, two of which had the same life experiences as her, Phillips never dared to dream.

“I never thought I’d be at this part and graduating,” she said. “So, I’m really proud with myself.”

Phillips honed her skills with the best in the industry. The Baking & Pastry Arts course is designed to prepare students for employment in bakeries, restaurants and even to become business owners.

Professional instructors combine classroom studies with practical applications to provide practice in creating masterpieces.

“I enrolled because I love making sweets,” said Phillips.

Cooking has always been a passion of hers, ever since she was a child all she did was cook and bake.

“My first time ever making anything was a grilled cheese. I was eight.”

When she moved in with her grandmother for a short time in between foster homes, she took up baking. Phillips remembers the homemade cakes her grandma would bring home from church and how excited she used to get.

“That’s when I told myself I would love to make cakes of my own, pies, cookies. Who doesn’t love eating sweets,” she asked.

Her first official cake was a strawberry Jell-O cake. She was 11.

“It was to die for it was so good.”

Phillips plans to continue in her studies by enrolling in the Professional Culinary Arts & Hospitality program after graduating, but for now, she’s grateful for the experience she’s acquired in her baking classes.

The hours are conducive to her schedule as a new mom. With a 10-month old at home and hours spent commuting from her home in Pasco County, PTC has made earning a future easier than she ever expected.

“It was actually hard for me to get into college,” she said.

Being in the foster care system most of her life, basics such as driving, getting insurance, and scheduling doctor’s appointments were overwhelming, so the compassion of the PTC staff was welcomed and will be forever cherished.

Not only did they treat her with kindness, but PTC also helped her maneuver the steps needed to become a student. Baking & Pastry instructor Chef Rose Audibert referred her to the staff members there with experience in working with foster care students.

“She gave me really good advice and told me how to get in contact with my caseworker so I could get into school,” she explained.

Phillips wants to start her own business eventually. She’s already using the entrepreneur skills introduced at PTC to get started. With a company name in the works, business cards and a website are next on the list.

But the most crucial part is making sure she has a viable product to offer consumers. So, Phillips is orchestrating test runs to see what her top sellers might be.

In the running? Her soon to be famous coffee cake. Its cinnamon coffee frosting got top marks with PTC’s chefs.

“They called it crack cake,” laughed Phillips.

She often looks back at the last few years of her life and can’t believe how she’s gone from homeless and alone, to having not only a daughter but the PTC family at her side.

“I’m just in a better place,” she said. “It’s kind of scary watching myself grow, but I have opportunities now not a lot have, so I’m really proud.”

About Hospitality programs at PTC

Baking & Pastry Arts is a 600-hour course featured on the Clearwater campus of Pinellas Technical College, and the Professional Culinary Arts & Hospitality program is a 1200-hour course available on the St. Petersburg and Clearwater campuses. Both programs are PELL eligible and prepare students for a variety of positions in the culinary industry.

For more information on the more than 40 programs offered at PTC, visit myptc.edu or call 727-893-2500 in St. Pete and 727-538.7167 in Clearwater.

scroll to top