I love to cook. I started watching Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Jeff Smith when I was about 8 years old. It would drive my siblings crazy. They could not understand why on earth anyone would want to watch somebody else cook when there were perfectly good (and age-appropriate) cartoons on television.

I dabbled in cooking a few things myself when I was young, but I didn’t actually do any cooking until I was much older.

It’s funny how different parts of your life mesh together, and this week I was thinking about some of the similarities between cooking and my business.

Be Patient

Beginner cooks like to watch over the pot, turn the meat incessantly or stir things constantly. One of the things you learn quickly is that not only is it not necessary, it can actually make things worse. If you have ever had a hamburger stick on the grill, you know exactly what I mean.

Although patience is a virtue that we don’t all have, it’s imperative in the investigation business (and most businesses for that matter). In some cases, things happen quickly or you find what you are looking for almost instantly; others are more challenging and require a strong commitment and patience.

Do Great Things

My range of cooking is relatively limited. I can’t cook everything under the sun. I like to cook some things, and do so very well. My philosophy is to do a few things but do them really well, instead of doing lots of things mediocre. I would rather spend my time perfecting a new dish than trying something new.

In my business, I do a few things well. Doing a lot of mediocre things doesn’t really get me out of bed in the morning and does not do my clients any favors. Doing great work does.

Be Creative

I hate baking. I hate the idea that I have to follow directions to the “T.” If you forget to put in baking soda or the right amount, you can end up with an edible piece of cardboard. In contrast, cooking is much different. Following directions is optional; in fact, I rarely ever follow directions. I like learning as I go and being creative. I often go to the local market without any idea of what I am going to cook, buy high-quality, fresh ingredients and wing it.

The same goes for my business. Being creative is part of what I do every day. Of course, there are certain mechanics that you have to do well, but nearly every case I get is different. You have to be creative and think outside the proverbial box; otherwise, you will not be in the business very long.


Good cooks are separated from not-so-good cooks by execution. Give ingredients to two different people and the outcomes can be completely different. Putting the ingredients together and executing the meal are where the skills of an experienced cook separate him or her from everyone else.

The execution is what separates good investigators from not-so-good investigators. The results and how you communicate those results are what count, not the ingredients you have at your disposal.

So what cooking has taught me is to be patient, do great things, be creative and execute.

Simple enough, but now I am hungry …

Enjoyed What You Read?

Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date with what Hal Humphreys, from Pursuit Magazine, believes to be one of the absolute best blogs in the investigative industry!

2 replies
  1. Dom
    Dom says:

    Sam with the above comment reading this makes me hungry ‘mmmmmmmm foood’ You write some really good things and more people should be visiting your blogs. I can 100% see where you are coming from cooking and being a PI takes alot of patients.

  2. mm
    mm says:

    Ingenious analogies. And, accurate description of how you became what you are today. I never thought to compare the two, but it certainly works. Now I’m hungry too!

Comments are closed.