Thursday, October 24, 2013

Self Doubt in Recipe Development: Or the story of how I won an iPad

A really beautiful thing happened to me at the end of September. I won second place in a recipe contest. But, wow - it was a big surprise. Especially since it happened right as I thought I was losing my "touch" with regard to recipe development.

The contest was sponsored by Hodgson Mill. It was called "Summer Pastabilities," and it was a project I took on because I was going through a pretty fallow period in the kitchen and I needed something to get my creative juices flowing again.

I can't say the process was easy. In fact, I had a number of moments when I wondered what right I had to be entering any sort of recipe contest. I felt like I'd lost every modicum of inspiration I'd ever had.

All told, the original recipe I created was alright -- though better in theory than in practice. It incorporated myriad end-of-summer ingredients like cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, fresh basil, bacon, and feta cheese. And it was dressed with a lovely lemony dressing. But, there was something about it that just didn't feel right.

It wasn't great. And no matter how many times I went over the recipe in my head, I couldn't think of a way to make it better.

So -- despite the fact that I didn't really have the time or energy to put toward a new recipe --at the very last minute I changed my mind and decided to go with a completely different concept, a Thai-styleshrimp salad with fresh cucumbers, red and yellow sweet peppers, cilantro and a coconut-lime dressing augmented with fish sauce for a bit of umami and a bit of kick from Thai red curry paste.

The recipe took a bit of finessing. But, I finally got it to a stage where I felt like it was "good enough."
So, we got the pasta salad together, shot the photos, and then enjoyed the salad for dinner.

But, by the next day, I was having misgivings about the recipe. Maybe it was too spicy... too limey... not flavorful enough... maybe the slices of cucumber were too big... But, there was no time to give the recipe another round of tweaking, so I sent it off to the judges.

When I received an email that I'd been chosen as a winner, I think I just about fell out of my chair. I was stunned. And thrilled. And really honored. But, despite the awesome news, the self-doubt started to creep back in.

I started to wonder what all the other recipes were like. Maybe they just weren't very good -- or maybe mine just happened to get lucky. That had to be it -- right?

But, as I perused the recipes that had been submitted for the contest, I found myself in a place I've not been for quite a while -- a good place. It was a spot where I really felt honored to be doing something that I really loved and that... maybe... I was even good at. After all, there were a lot of really creative recipes out there. And most of them sounded like they would have been more-than-worthy of placing in the contest.

The moment wasn't about ego. But, it was an affirming moment -- one of those times when you become acutely aware that you are in the right place at the right time... doing the right thing.  I'm sure many of you can relate! Such a great feeling.

The iPad I won came in the mail last week... and every time I look at it, I think about how blessed I am. And how awesome it is to be in the kitchen, doing what I love.

Check out the entire list of entries, including my Bow-Thai Pasta HERE.



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