Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Recipe for Success

Domenica grew up in a house that always smelled like something delicious was cooking.  Her parents loved small-town life, but they wanted their children to know there was a bigger world outside their home.  Every Christmas the family would drive to New York City to see the enormous tree and spend time in the gigantic five-story FAO Schwartz toy store.  Domenica came to believe that when she grew up, she would go to New York City and something magical would happen to her.

When Domenica was thirteen, her parents split up and she moved to upstate New York with her mother and siblings.  Her mom took a job managing eight restaurants, and as soon as she was old enough, Domenica went to work with her.  Her mother found Domenica to be a true asset.  She'd take on unglamorous tasks like setting up buffets and cleaning shrimp, eventually even learning her way around the cook stations, and she tackled them all with enthusiasm and bubbling energy.

After progressing from waitress to manager, at the age of 23, Domenica decided it was time to move to New York City.  She found a job managing a tiny candy counter at Macy's, where her boss gave her a crash-course education in gourmet food, something she knew almost nothing about.  She flourished at Macy's, but two years later, when they offered her a promotion to take charge of another department, she turned it down because she really was only interested in food. 

Domenica always had it in her mind that she wanted to succeed in New York.  However, coming home from work one night, she was confronted by a young mugger in the entryway to her apartment.  Domenica managed to scare him off with pepper spray, but the incident left her shaken.  It also made an impression on her attacker, who sought her out again just weeks later.  The second mugging put Domenica in the hospital, and she decided that she’d had enough of life in the city.  She moved back home and took a job as a waitress.

One year later, Domenica got a job at a specialty food shop.  Not long after, their chef quit, and Domenica’s years spent learning food prep and line cooking for her mother suddenly came into play.  She seized the opportunity to offer cooking classes inside the store to teach people how to prepare delicious meals at home in 30-minutes or less.

The idea blossomed into a weekly three-minute television spot on the local news.  Domenica would go to people’s homes and walk through the preparation of their favorite dishes for the television audience.  The appeal was that she was one of them, just a girl who loved food and wanted to enjoy what she ate rather than a prestigious and unapproachable chef.  She often cut corners by using ingredients you could find in a box, and jokingly said, “I’m not Martha Stewart.  I’m just like you.”

Being on television didn’t mean she was making any money, however, and Domenica was frequently on the verge of not being able to pay her rent.  She was able to arrange a meeting with a publisher to discuss a cookbook, and although the publisher wasn’t initially very interested, Domenica’s determination and energetic charm won her over.

Domenica’s cookbook caught the attention of television personality Al Roker, who watched her local news segments and mentioned her to his booking staff.  Nothing happened immediately, but when a freak blizzard resulted in a last-second cancellation, Domenica was invited with little notice to appear as a Today Show guest.

In a bizarre coincidence, Domenica got a phone call the day after taping her Today Show appearance from the president of the Food Network.  She didn’t understand their interest, given that most of their programming was of high-end food being prepared by established restaurant chefs, but it was her everyday accessibility that they wanted. 

Domenica, better known to the world as Rachael Ray, appealed to home-cooks and food lovers everywhere, and it made her name a household staple.  But it was her tenacity and dedication to what she loved that eventually took her from behind the candy shop counter and made Rachael Ray an internationally-known brand name with over a dozen cookbooks, a lifestyle magazine, numerous cooking programs, and her own network television talk show.

When it comes to your own personal recipe for success, remember how important it is to be true to your passions and stay comfortable being your authentic self.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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