“The more that people know, the more work they do” is a saying that Deziree Klema, sous chef at Target North Campus in Brooklyn Park, MN, learned from her grandparents.
She keeps a black-and-white photo of them from 1949 in her kitchen at home as a reminder of the strong work ethic and passion for cooking they instilled in her at a young age. In living out her grandparents’ wisdom, Deziree’s journey of pushing herself to constantly learn has opened the doors for her — and others — to achieve more.
After graduating with a culinary arts degree in 1998, Deziree joined Bon Appétit as lead pantry cook at a corporate account in Maple Grove, MN, and saw in Executive Chef Kristina Soyring (now at Medtronic World Headquarters) the type of role she hoped to have one day: a female leadership position in the kitchen. “I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight,” she explains. “I would have to put in my time to get to where I wanted to be.” So she jumped in feet first to learn the ins and outs of different departments, including the salad bar, catering, and hot food, picking Kristina’s brain at every turn and pouring her heart and soul into the process.
In 2001, Deziree arrived at Target North and worked her way up through several roles to become lead cook. When Lyle Schoenthaler joined the team as executive chef in 2012, they were a group of 10 Bon Appétiters serving 1,000 Target team members. Over the last five years, those figures have more than quadrupled, and Deziree’s responsibilities have grown similarly under Lyle’s and General Manager Salvatore Rosa’s mentorship. She was promoted to sous chef two years ago. “I’m learning my own boundaries, discovering what I’m good at and doing things that I didn’t think I could or had the courage to do, like becoming a sous chef,” she shares.
“I’m learning my own boundaries, discovering what I’m good at and doing things that I didn’t think I could or had the courage to do, like becoming a sous chef”
One of the things that she’s discovered she’s good at is teaching people. She has everything she’s learned over the years at the ready to share with others, and views teaching as an investment in building a stronger team. The more people know, the more work they can do, and the more experience they can draw on to help others learn — it’s a domino effect. If later on she sees someone doing what she’s taught them, then she knows she’s done her job.
“Deziree is a great teacher,” praises Lyle. “She simplifies things for her staff and also has the experience of having gone from hourly to salary, so she’s a good example of what good can come from learning.” Members of her staff agree: “Deziree leads by example. Her leadership always starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference,” says Line Cook Evangeline Platt. Line Cook Kim Schendel adds, “Her passion for food and quality has permeated throughout the staff.”
Reflecting on her 19 years with Bon Appétit, Deziree says she’s glad that no two days are the same. She also appreciates how Bon Appétit accounts are at once all different (she has the freedom to work with her chef to come up with their own menus and “create their own home” at Target North) and the same (sharing core company values such as cooking from scratch and supporting local farmers).
Deziree joyfully recounts a trip that she and her team took to Ferndale Market, one of her favorite Farm to Fork vendors, last fall. Ferndale Market owner John Peterson pulled Deziree aside to tell her that he included the turkey Rachael dogs in the meal he prepared for the visitors because he knew they were her favorite. “I love knowing that we are building relationships with farmers and helping them with their small piece of the world. Bon Appétit has gone above and beyond to help contribute to the livelihoods of small farmers,” she explains.
“If we could clone Deziree, that would be a good thing,” jokes Salvatore. With the number of people training under her who have expressed wanting to be just like her, maybe he won’t have to resort to cloning to benefit from more leaders like Deziree!