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What Bobby Flay Taught Me About Writing

by Beth K. Vogt

Bobby Flay is a celebrity chef and restaurateur. Any books he’s written are filled with mouth-watering recipes, not imaginary characters and plot twists. But as I recovered from a deadline and a migraine – Could the two be related? – I indulged in a mini-marathon of television episodes of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay.

Watching Flay create signature dishes, I realized a master chef was educating this worn-out writer. So today I’m serving up writing wisdom á la Bobby Flay, proving lessons along the writing road can come from the most unexpected of experts. As Flay chopped, simmered and sautéed, he taught me that writers need to:

1. Be willing to try new things. Flay is the Food Network’s resident grill master. But during each of the ThrowDown! segments, he’s the underdog. He tackles a recipe where someone else is the expert, be it appetizers, main courses, or desserts. Think shrimp and grits, sushi, pizza, chocolate, cheesecake. The cooks being challenged are in their element and Flay is out of his. Is there tension? Absolutely! What if – Gasp! – Flay loses the challenge?

2. Be teachable. When you’re good at something – a celebrity even – it’s easy to stop learning and just do what you do well, over and over again. Flay isn’t foolish or arrogant enough to pretend he knew everything there was to know about cooking and baking. He faced his limitations – and then he pushed past them. Before each Throwdown! challenge, he took lessons from experts: his pastry chef or a sushi chef, for example. That way, when he made his dish, he had at least a basic understanding of the techniques needed for different recipes.

3. Be true to yourself. In each episode, Flay samples the expert’s signature dish he is challenging. Then he takes the chef on not by copying that original dish, but by making the dish his own. It’s not about recreating someone else’s style. It’s not about mimicking someone else’s path to success. No, Flay stays true to himself.

4. Celebrate others’ achievements. Of the four ThrowDown! episodes I watched, Flay won one time. One out of four. Did he cancel the show in embarrassment? No. He went on to the next challenge. He enjoyed himself before, during, and after the contest – win or lose. And he celebrated the other chefs and their wins.

Throwdown! with Bobby Flay is all about risk – and no guarantee of success. Sounds a bit like the writing life, doesn’t it? Flay is passionate about cooking – and I’m passionate about writing. To move forward along the writing road, I have to embrace all of it: trying new things, being teachable, being true to myself, all the while celebrating both my success and that of other writers.

When did you learn a lesson about writing in an unexpected way? I’d love for you to share it in the comment section below.

Beth Vogt April 2013Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best is often behind the doors marked “Never.” Despite being a nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth’s second inspirational contemporary romance novel, Catch a Falling Star, released in May 2013 from Howard Books. Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy (MBT), best-selling author Susan May Warren’s writing community.

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7 Responses to What Bobby Flay Taught Me About Writing

  1. Right here, right now. As I sit struggling to bring a new book together, this challenges me to look beyond the ordinary. Do something different. Thanks!

  2. Cyn Rogalski says:

    Wonderful analogy. I’ve noticed that too–Bobby purposely tries to NOT make the same dish as his opponent; he asks himself how to make this flavor his. Gives me things to think about–thank you!

  3. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Thanks for the comment, Pat! And I pray you go beyond the ordinary! You are a talented writer!

  4. Beth, I love how you saw this while watching someone, well not just someone but THE Bobby Flay, cook and then you incorporated it into improving yourself as a writer. 2 of the 4 I’ve always believed in – celebrating others achievements and keep learning (be teachable). I like being true to yourself and then trying something new. Well I love them all. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Deborah Lynne:
    My family loves cooking shows, and Bobby Flay is a favorite pro of mine. It was fun to weave my love of writing with my love for Bobby Flay’s cooking expertise!
    Thanks for joining the conversation today!

  6. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Cyn:
    I love how Bobby Flay makes the dish his own — no duplicating. He stays true to himself.

  7. When I was younger I wrote for Sunday School papers. Remember them? I cast a pretty wide net and frequently went outside my denomination. Alas, these outlets didn’t pay especially well. I remember selling a story to a Mennonite paper and finally receiving the check, which was something like $35. I felt a little disappointed until the Lord spoke to me and pointed out that since Mennonites aren’t exactly huge in the area I live in, New England, this might be my only chance to provide encouragement to some Mennonite who was struggling with the issue I was writing about. Even if the Mennonite was on the other side of the world. AND, the Lord also gently reminded me, I might never know who the person was or how they were helped. I have never forgotten this, and when I lose sight of the goal, which is often, I remember the “anonymous Mennonite.”
    Kathy Bailey