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.
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.