Everyone is acquainted with the idea of overcoming adversity. However, it can mean different things for different people.
One Bethel woman is not only familiar with the struggle of overcoming adversity, but has now become familiar with what lays on the other side of that mountain. Amandalouise Robertson, a Bethel woman with a form of muscular dystrophy, has worked her whole life to overcome the debilitating disease. Now, fresh out of college, she will be living her dream as a chef at Disney World in Florida.
“Muscular dystrophy covers 43 different diseases,” said Robertson. “My type makes my muscles deteriorate like 10 times faster than regular. I’ve had to overcome stuff because I can’t run, I can’t lift anything over 25 pounds and even walking up and down stairs is hard. If I fall, I have a tendency to break something. I can fall over nothing and end up hurt. People have always told me what I can’t do, and so I do it anyway just to prove that I can do it.”
Robertson said that her illness has been a lifelong companion, as well as a lifelong reminder encouraging her to try harder. According to Robertson, she’s been treated different for a long time – perhaps rightly so. But that, she said, has only made her more determined to succeed where others expect her to fail, even if the odds against her are steep.
“I’m not tall, and I can’t lift over 25 pounds,” said Robertson. “Things that are up high are hard for me to reach. It’s just the overall fact that I have the disease I have. If I fall in the kitchen, I’m more likely to be hurt than someone else. Some people have trouble understanding me, and they think that since I have this disease that I can’t do what they can. I just try to prove 10 times more that I can, even though I’m different.”
Robertson said that her interest in cooking began when she was little. As a child, she spent many an hour watching her grandmother cook, and then decided when she left the familiar halls of high school for Grant Career Center that the cooking program just may be fun. From there, she attended Hocking College with a chef program taught by American Culinary Institute chefs.
“The chef’s at Hocking were very understanding,” said Robertson. “Some days, I couldn’t attend class, and they never held it against me. They were always willing to help me catch up.”
Her father, Reynolds Robertson, said that her drive to succeed meant that she often attended class whether she felt like it or not. According to him, she graduated the program with a 4.0 grade point average, despite the program remaining unmodified to suit her specific problems.
“She started school when she was roughly nine weeks old,” said Reynolds Robertson. “She had stimulation therapy. She was honor roll most of the way through school and all through college. She sometimes goes to school and work sick because she is very susceptible to pneumonia. She fights her way through it. She’ll be in the honor society at college. I’m very proud of her. She does whatever she has to do, whatever has to be done.”
And now, from college to the Magic Kingdom, Robertson expects to return to Florida as a chef in the Liberty Tree restaurant, where she hopes to focus on her specialty, desserts.
“Basically, my last quarter of college I went down to Florida and Disney World and helped do all of the desserts,” said Robertson. “Now that I’ve graduated, I’ll be moving back down to work there. I was seasonal, so I basically only had to go down there two or three times a year. But when I go back, I’ll be on full-time.”
Robertson said that she likes the dessert part best because it allows her artistic side to show through. While she admits that taste is certainly an issue, she said that presentation is quite important as well, pointing to wedding cakes as an example. While cakes are her favorite baking past time, she said that chocolate souffles are also fun.
“I like the dessert portion, the presentation,” said Robertson. “People pay money for it, like a wedding cake, and when they look at how good it looks, that’s what people focus on. For me, it’s a freedom of expression in knowing you can design things.”