Entrepreneur and popular chef Allison Fogarty encourages people with disabilities to dream big, think big, and be big.
Chef Allison Fogarty’s delicious, healthy treats have customers begging for more. Literally. Her handmade dog treats taste so yummy she’s created something of a pup-arazzi that stalks her Florida home.
“We’re starting to have dogs stop by our lanai looking for treats,” laughs Pat, Allison’s mom, who co-pilots Doggy Delights by Allison, the super successful, all-natural paw-and-bone-shaped canine cookie business that operates from the Fogarty’s kitchen. Allison’s incredible journey to her professional life as a rock star boutique biscuit baker landed her on The Rachael Ray Show, where the celebrity chef personally invited Allison to return so the two could cook together on set.
But the path that led Allison to national television was no walk in the park. In fact, as Allison will tell you, it was torture.
She was born with Down syndrome and a rare condition called tracheoesophageal fistula, meaning her breathing and eating tubes connected. At 11 years old, Allison’s newly discovered laryngeal cleft required her to live in and out of hospitals and survive on a G-tube inserted into her stomach. For two years, she could not eat or drink through her mouth. This little fighter, though, was never going down for the count. “Instead of staying away from food,” she says, “I watched The Food Channel. I started watching Rachael Ray’s shows, and I decided I wanted to be a chef—just like her.”
While anyone at the time might have looked at her and seen a bedridden child hooked up to tubes, what was really brewing during those two years was a determined young woman figuring out how to build her own empire walking in the footsteps of her hero.
As soon as Allison was able, she and her mother launched Lunch Break, a fresh, healthy lunch-to-go business for the teachers at Pat’s Illinois school. Allison and her parents moved to Florida when Pat retired from teaching where they enrolled Allison in the Entrepreneur Academy for Adults at the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.
“I already had my business idea,” says Allison. Dog treats made perfect sense because Allison could manage the entire enterprise on her own—she mixes, makes, bakes, and packages the dog treats herself with the occasional assistance of her mom, dad, and boyfriend.
“Having Down syndrome was not a big deal to me,” she says. “I’m a businesswoman. I’m the boss, a manager, and I am the CEO—and a chef.”
“I’m a businesswoman. I’m the boss, a manager, and I am the CEO—and a chef.”
At Allison’s request, Pat emailed The Rachael Ray Show with Allison’s story, and the producers called to hear more. By the time Allison got to meet the hero who changed her life, the feelings were mutual.
“Chef Allison,” Rachael told her on the show, “I have to say—you’re my new hero.”
Allison’s advice to everyone out there with disabilities? “Dream big!” she says. “Follow your dreams. You have to think big to be big.”
You can purchase Allison’s treats on her website.