On the front burner with Jenny Flake of “Picky Palate”.

I met Jenny Flake of “Picky Palate” last year when we both were both visiting McDonald’s USA headquarters with our families as part of a blogging trip we participated in. I loved finding out more about the world of food competition and it was fun to realize that I watched the Food Network shows she competed in. I totally adore her and her mouth watering blog, Picky Palate and we’re thrilled to feature her in Issue 3 of the magazine.

Some days I have to pinch myself because I can honestly say I have my dream job writing my recipe blog, Picky Palate.

Let me take you back to how it all started….

Back in late 2001, in Gilbert, AZ my husband and I bought our very first new home.  We were ecstatic to say the least.  I had just finished Dental Hygiene School and we were ready to start the next chapter of our life.  I remember standing in the middle of my new kitchen shortly after we moved in,and a feeling of panic swept over me when I realized I did not know how to cook anything!  We had lived with my grandparents while I was in school and my grandmother cooked for us and took care of our every need.  Bless her little heart!  The New Year was right around the corner and I made it a serious goal to learn everything I could about cooking.

I was like a cooking and baking machine over the next year.  I was reading cookbooks like they were novels and watching cooking shows on Food Network on a daily basis.  I loved it.  During this whole process of learning and soaking up all things culinary, I realized that I absolutely loved to cook.  I was even dabbling in creating my own recipes.

One night, when I was watching Food Network, I saw a commercial for a documentary on the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  It talked about home cooks who competed with their recipes for a million dollar prize.  I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever heard.  I quickly went to the computer and researched all that I could about this cooking competition.  Over the next couple months I was creating recipes for this Bake-Off and had a great time experimenting in the kitchen.  It really brought out my creativity with recipes.

The deadline came and went and I went about my days working, being a new mom and enjoying cooking.  I’d say about 6 months later I received a phone call that changed everything!  The very nice woman on the phone told me that my recipe for “Taco Ranch Chicken Sandwiches” made it as a finalist for the upcoming 2004 Pillsbury Bake-Off in Hollywood California.  Needless to say I was beyond myself and could hardly believe I actually made it.

Long story short, I did not win the million dollars, but learned so much about this world of cooking competitions that little did I know would teach me so much about creative cooking!

I continued competing in competitions for about 3 ½ years and even won a few.  My coconut shrimp with warm tropical salsa won its category in the Southern Living Cook-Off and in 2007 I was named the National Cornbread Cook-Off winner!  I had a blast being a finalist in 2 seasons of the Ultimate Recipe Showdown and the Build a Better Burger Competition both of which were featured on Food Network.

As my boys were getting to be busy toddlers, I knew it was time to take a break from all of the competitions I was doing.  One evening, I remember chatting on the phone with my sister, October of 2007 to be exact, and we were talking about the “blog” craze going on.  She started a family blog and I thought, maybe I’ll start a recipe blog where I can share all of the recipes I love to create.  It was a very spontaneous decision and that very night I decided to call it “Picky Palate” since I had 2 little boys who were picky eaters.  What a whirlwind it has been since that night.

Over the last 3 ½ years I have learned so much by writing my blog.  I’ve learned that when you are truly passionate about what you are doing, you never know what kind of incredible opportunities will come your way.  That has been my attitude the entire time I’ve had my blog.  I’ve never searched out success, just enjoyed myself through the process and different doors have opened along the way.  My latest success has been the opportunity to write my very first cookbook that will be available in 2012.

There is definitely a LOT of work that goes into “professional blogging.”  It is not easy by any means.  I consider it my business and it takes hours of work every single day.  I work on my cookbook, write new recipes for the blog and edit photos when my boys are in school during the day and usually again when everyone goes to sleep at night if needed.  It is so important to find the right balance of work and home.  It takes some time to figure out, but can definitely be done.

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to do what I do and absolutely love each and every day that I get to create!



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