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Friday, October 7, 2011

How to Write a Winning Culinary Bio

OK Kid.....

The following is my November column for Food Service News publication. Even though this publication is meant for the people who manage and have buying power in Minnesota's Hospitality Industry, much of what they talk about transfers to what you are doing in your neck of the woods if you are in "The Show".

Make sure you look them up online if you want to be a "beautiful person" LOL.

Alright, lets sit back and enjoy.

Greetings Esteemed Colleagues,

This month’s Klecko rant will be titled “Writing the Quintessential Bio” or “Maximizing Personal Visibility”.

As I write this column, I do so with a stack of resumes submitted to me for a vacancy in my pastry department that recently opened up.

My-My-My, out of the twenty something applications I received, I’ll bet half of them were put together so poorly that these individuals plea for employment won’t even cross the threshold of my consideration.

Let’s face it, the Hospitality Industry runs a little bit different than oh…let’s say banking or health care, but should that serve as an excuse to not frame yourself properly?

In the “Food Show” the emphasis of your resume isn’t placed on grammar or sentence structure. The person reading your history often cares more about your past accomplishments and demeanor.

So I guess the question I’m going to throw out is…….

Do you know how to respectfully demand maximum compensation, instead of asking for it?

Most people applying for positions, or gigs are typically going to be throwing their hat in the ring with a number of candidates, so how can we strengthen our presence instead of blending in with the other applicants?

Over the years I have noticed that the one thing that separates the Movers & Shakers from the Posers is confidence.

Everything starts from there.

Often times I’ve spoken with people who have bemoaned this observation because they have felt that they simply were not wired this way.

Let me give you a hint….FAKE IT.

You’d be amazed at how faking your way through confidence will eventually lead you to success.

And when you’ve finally obtained the goal you’ve set out for, that sincere confidence will simply fall into place.

Alright, I know that theory can get boring, show let’s walk over to the chalk board where Professor Klecko can give you a little demonstration.

This summer at the State Fair, I had the opportunity to watch Donna Nowicki give a cooking demo. Donnas’ unique in the fact that she has given up a lucrative gig in the martial arts field to join the pile of folks who are trying to make a go of it as a personal chef / cooking instructor.

Over the years I’ll bet I’ve had to sit through a billion cooking tutorials, more often than not my A.D.D. kicks in before the chef has even finished peeling their first potato, but Nowicki was different, she had character.

Not only was her deal informative, but it was also entertaining to boot.

When her presentation was over, I was so impressed that I spoke in detail with her and her husband (the self proclaimed “Packing Mule”) and the two of them handed me a press kit that they were working on, and asked if I would offer any suggestions.

Here’s what Donna had written………

“Donna Nowicki is a trained decorator having completed Wilton’s Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Cake Decorating. She is a personal chef trained through the Culinary Business Academy and is a chef instructor teaching a variety of classes throughout the Twin Cities.

Donna is known locally as the Black Belt Chef due to the fact that her “alter ego” is a 2nd Degree Certified Black Belt karate school owner and self defense instructor for 3M Company in Maplewood.”

OK, before I deconstruct this, I will state for the record that I asked Donnas’ permission first. The main reason I wanted to use her bio as an example is because I saw how her description was selling her talent short.
If you don’t know how to harness language, often times your actions simply won’t be called upon.

First off, I will say that I liked how she kept her message concise.

Oftentimes people will leave you a summary of their entire life’s achievements.

I think I can speak for most of the people with hiring power when I say that I could care less about how you snagged the leading role in your high schools rendition of Westside Story.

I also liked how she presented herself in the third person. Sometimes its much easier to toot our own horn if you are writing something that resembles more of a commercial than a personal message.

Now the parts that didn’t work me, one of the biggest mistakes that people make when representing themselves is that they don’t know how to edit self praise.

Note how when Donna listed training as a cake decorator, that she mentions completion of beginner, intermediate and advanced courses.

To most people reading this from a hiring standpoint, a red flag would start flapping immediately. Listing every level of anything completed denotes desperation.

Simply listing completion of a course says more than enough.

Another common mistake people make is giving up too much information.

Sometimes it’s better to simply let the person reading your resume let their mind define your claim.

Example, Donna lists that she is a self defense instructor at 3M Company in Maplewood. I would have whittled that down to being a self defense instructor for 3M and left it at that.

The person reading your resume isn’t going to ask how many branches of 3M you worked for. The mind doesn’t process information like that.

If you simply declared that you worked for 3M, you are not lying. Let the person reviewing your credentials broaden your scope by defining you with their own supposition and imagination.

Don’t flatter yourself; most of the people who read our resumes are not going to keep its contents in their minds for more than a couple of minutes.

By isolating the Maplewood branch, you’ve let 80% of the air out of your boast, after all…maybe you have a cousin who works in their human resources department and the persistent nagging from your auntie could have been the key component that obtained this position.

It happens every single day.

After reviewing this I grabbed a cocktail napkin and within minutes came up with the following.

“In an era when so many individuals are looking to find stardom by becoming food personalities, Donna Nowicki simply uses cooking to find herself.

As a second degree black belt instructor, she understands confidence better than anyone.

For years she has incorporated her extensive training at Wilton Cakes into a self defense curriculum that she has implemented at 3M Companies.

If your life or kitchen needs centering, just talk to the Black Belt Chef.”

As you look at the two versions, much of the content is the same, but one thing I like to do is picture sentences as runners in a relay race. Often times people will construct sentences (or in my metaphor, sprinters) that by themselves seem to make sense.

In a relay race, the prize is usually won or lost depending on whether or not the baton was transferred efficiently.

Make sure that your message has a common thread running through it.

Cadence is key.

Whether or not you stand on the winner’s podium will depend on this.

I guarantee it.

OK, that’s enough for now, but before I go, make sure you come back next month so I can tell you who I think the essential bakers of 2012 will be in the Twin Towns.

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