Homeless Teen Cooks His Way to a Dream Career

  • while male standing in front of a brick wall with his hands folded smiling

When David Bondarchuck was 15, he dropped out of school and fled an unstable home environment. With no relatives in Colorado, he ended up at a youth homeless shelter in Denver.

Motivated to remove himself from the drugs, prostitution, theft, and gang activity around him, he took the bus to the Denver Public Library where he read as much as he could.

One day, when returning to the shelter, a TV was on in the background. It featured a woman with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, showcasing holiday decorations at the White House. That image changed Bondarchuck.

“I thought, ‘If I’m going to be somebody, I have to get there myself,’” Bondarchuck remembers. “It was time to grow up.”

The next day, he found out that the woman on TV was Martha Stewart.

Reading His Way to a Beautiful Life

With this new motivation, Bondarchuck consumed every book he could find on Martha Stewart.

“At that point, I had low self-esteem,” Bondarchuck says. “Reading those books, I thought if I could create a beautiful life for myself, this woman was going to help me do it.”

Around this time, a long-lost friend from Bondarchuck’s childhood invited him to live with him and his family in Hudson, Colorado. Bondarchuck accepted the invitation, got a job at McDonald’s, and finished high school at an alternative school in Greeley.

After high school, Bondarchuck wanted to be a journalist. He investigated attending four-year universities, but the high cost of tuition turned him off. After moving to Denver, he instead opted to enroll at the more affordable Community College of Denver (CCD). He began classes in 2001, immersing himself in creative classes and joining the school paper.

Frugality Leads to a New Career

To afford college, Bondarchuck lived a frugal life, which included making all his own food. Cooking for one meant he had too many leftovers, so he started giving away his extra food.

“Pretty soon people started asking me to cook for them,” Bondarchuck says. “I realized I could create a life for myself‚ or at least a side hustle.”

In 2004, when Bondarchuck got promoted to a manager at McDonald’s, he transferred to another community college closer to his work. Though he valued his education, Bondarchuck never graduated — he lacked completion in one class, college algebra, which he took five times but never passed.

“Ultimately, it was not in my destiny,” he says. “I’m almost 40-years-old and have never used algebra in my career.”

In 2009, Bondarchuck left McDonald’s and started his own catering business, Scratch Catering.

White House Dreams

Bondarchuck always kept the vision of Martha Stewart at the White House in his mind.

“I said to myself, ‘I will know I will have truly made it as a caterer if I could make it to the White House,’” he remembers. “I started writing letters, begging them to let me be part of the holiday decorating.”

In August 2011, he finally heard back: he’d been chosen as a lead decorator in the Red Room at the White House.

“There was a moment when I was decorating where I paused for a moment,” Bondarchuck remembers. “I said to myself, ‘You’re in the White House right now. How do you go from a homeless shelter where people are putting soap bars in socks and hitting you at night to go where the President lives?’ It was literally that moment where I said, ‘You did good kid.’”

As David was also decorating the Green Room, the press passed through and asked him to tell his story. He told them that when he was homeless at 15, he saw Martha Stewart on TV and wanted to change his life.

National media outlets picked up the story; back in Denver, he received a call from Michelle Obama’s then press secretary.

“They said, ‘A very special person wants to meet you,’” Bondarchuck remembers. “It was Martha Stewart.”

Martha Stewart invited him to appear on the “Martha” TV show on December 21st, 2011. His aired segment included a personal video message from Michelle Obama.

Food World Stardom

After Bondarchuck decorated for a second year at the White House, the television offers started rolling in. He competed on the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship where he was awarded “Best pie in America.” He appeared weekly on Denver’s 9News, and now has his own TV show on the CW, “From Scratch.”

Although Bondarchuck never finished his degree at CCD, he credits his courses there for preparing him for life as a TV personality.

“I went to school for journalism,” Bondarchuck says. “Even though I didn’t graduate, I still ended up on TV. The public speaking you need to be on camera — I think that’s what helped me. It allowed me to do what I was destined to do and gave me the proper resources to succeed.”

Now, Bondarchuck isn’t so far away. In 2018, the Auraria Campus hired him as the campus catering manager.

“It’s not the money,” Bondarchuck says. “It’s about making people happy with my food. That gives me my greatest pleasure. Food brings people together.”