Cook like you’re cooking for your friends

Barbecue pitmaster Aaron Franklin got his start hosting backyard cookouts with his wife and now business partner. In 2009, he opened Franklin’s Barbecue, a small trailer on the side of an Austin interstate that has since been named Texas Monthly’s “Best Barbecue Joint in Texas” (a big deal in Texas) and Bon Appetit’s Best Barbecue Joint in America. If you’re ever in Austin and want to get a taste of his brisket, you’d better arrive early. Franklin’s fans line up for hours to get their grilled grub.

On a recent episode of Netflix’s “The Chef Show,” the hosts asked Aaron to explain his upcoming inaugural food festival, “Hot Luck.”

“It’s a food festival for cooks. I’m really just inviting people that I’m really into who make good food. I’ve really been encouraging people not to try to do anything fancy. If you want to grill hot dogs [that’s perfectly OK]…cook like you’re cooking for your friends. That’s what I want.”

That description struck me because it was such a human, real, clear description. I’ve never been to a food festival. I’d really have no idea what to expect. But, “Cook like you’re cooking for your friends” seems to capture the essence of it. If I were to go to Hot Luck (and believe me, that Netflix show has me thinking about it), I’d already have a sense of what to expect, from the food, to the crowd, to the essence of the event.

Your college application needs to present your activities, awards, and honors both clearly and compellingly. Flowery language usually works against you in pursuit of that goal. If the details of your summer job were that you swept floors, wiped down tables, and took out the trash, don’t describe it as: “Performed various maintenance and administrative duties to ensure a pleasant dining experience.” That might sound nice, but a reader will have no idea what you did. But, “As the rookie on the restaurant crew, I swept floors, wiped down tables, took out the trash, and generally did whatever else I needed to do to earn my serving stripes” paints a picture that’s clear, compelling, and most importantly, accurate.

No need to dress it up. Be proud of what you bring to the table. But cook like you’re cooking for your friends.

P.S. Aaron, in the extremely unlikely event that you ever see this, “Cook like you cook for your friends” is far too clear, compelling, and culinarily inviting not to be included on your event’s website.