Dec 132010

Cookbook author Greg Patent

When people say they want to write about food I’m always making suggestions like:

  • Don’t quit your day job
  • Find a patron
  • Win the lottery
  • Don’t write for free
  • Supplement your income with other food-related jobs like catering and teaching cooking classes.

But I’ve never heard this way to make money as a food writer: Compete as a contestant on the national American game show, Wheel of Fortune.

That’s exactly what cookbook author and freelance writer Greg Patent did on Friday night. A puzzle freak and watcher of the game show since 1975, Patent auditioned when the “Wheelmobile” came to his hometown of Missoula, Montana last June. He passed a second audition in October, where his wife of 46 years, author Dorothy Patent, also tried out.

Patent was one of 600 contestants chosen this year, out of more than 1 million, he told a reporter for his hometown paper. He got to blog about his experience in the Missoulian as well.

On the show, he clobbered the competition with strategy and finesse. Although becoming bankrupt a few times, he solved one puzzle without earning money, keeping his competitors from taking his lead. After identifying key phrases such as “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again” and “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day” he won $15,590, including an all-expense trip to Antigua.

Now, don’t freak out, but a few years ago the International Association of Culinary Professionals did an income survey of its membership. The average income for a “multi-purpose” freelancer (someone who writes about food in addition to other jobs) was in the $30,000 range. He made about half that Friday night.

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 Posted by on December 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm

  13 Responses to “Food Writer’s New Source of Income: A Game Show”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Winnie Abramson and YvonneMaffei (MHK), Dianne Jacob. Dianne Jacob said: How to win half of the average food writer's income? Get on a game show! […]

  2. Guess what… I was a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune the year I married Larry, beat the crap out of the others and was the day’s winner. Guess he married the right woman, I took him to St. Thomas as one of the prizes. Good for Greg!

  3. The happy wife can’t resist piping in. I was in the audience, along with Greg’s brother, Phil, and our niece, Judy, who hosted us during our visit. We had to clap our way through the taping of 4 other shows before Greg’s turn to shine arrived, but the only thing we got tired of was the I Hop ads. Turns out it’s fun to clap, clap, clap for people you’ve never met! And we were all so proud of our Greg, who solved all but one of the regular puzzles offered up.

    • Too bad the one he didn’t solve was worth $30k. But that’s the way it goes, and no point dwelling on what did not happen.

      Saw you all in the audience, Dorothy, looking so excited. When I emailed Greg to say I had watched the show, he said the best part of watching the show was to see his “beautiful wife” there. Lovely.

  4. Anything that works for marketing in this business!
    Ironic isn’t it that food writers/marketers can be like ‘starving artists’. Part of the issue is that food is a necessity, life enjoyment, social and personal expression, just to name a few, therefore easily becomes an avocation not necessarily a profession.

    I love Patty’s story!

    • Yes, this is a continuing issue in our business: the hobbyist who’s a food writer for fun, and the professional trying to make a living at it.

  5. Nice! From the headline I imagined someone penning questions for Jeopardy. That would be a sweet day job.

  6. If only I were talented enough to win at ANY game show. And surely that freelance income figure can’t be right for people with best-selling cookbooks, for instance? Yikes. I guess I’ll be keeping my day job until retirement. 😉

  7. HA! I was a contestant as well on Wheel of Fortune with my sister for Family Week. Too bad we didn’t have blogs then 😉 and we both have food blogs now! Hopefully they’ll once have a Food Blogger or Food Writer theme on WOF.

    • Such a small world. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a food writer week? You’ll have to suggest it, now that you’re an insider.

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