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Beer and Napkins’ Creative V Sessions: Featuring Despina Panagakos Yeargin


By Despina Panagakos Yeargin, a.k.a. @despidoodle

DESPINA joined us from her sister Antonia’s Chicago kitchen on February 21. She advocated shucking the rules so that we can all RE- learn to play with our food. She believes that, beyond feeding our hunger, a kitchen is also a place where different challenges give us opportunities to express our creativity. “The kitchen is where I support my friends,” she said. “It’s where I show my stepchildren that I love them and where I honor my family’s cultural traditions. Yes, my creative space is my kitchen!” 

LINK here to Despina’s V-Sessions Creativity Zoom talk with photos and specific examples of how she has used her creativity in the kitchen – Passcode &v5zF^e7


Let me tell you a story.

This took place a few years ago. My husband, Dewey, and I are preparing dinner for our granddaughters. The oldest, Corley, is about 7 or 8. We have soup ready to go, and we’re getting everything ready for grilled cheese sandwiches. Counting out the bread slices, we had just enough plus one slice, but upon close inspection, we realized that three of our slices had big holes in them. GASP! Just a gas bubble that had built up during the proofing and baking of the bread, but how to make grilled cheese sandwiches with a big hole in the bread? The cheese would melt and ooze out!

Dewey and I were ready for one of us to run to the store for more bread. After a full day at work, dinner should be easy. We were programmed for fun and relaxation, not problem-solving.

Enter Corley. She was still young enough to be truly open-minded. She is still young enough to apply skills learned in one area of her young life to another. “Why don’t you just tear up the extra slice to fill in the holes,” she said, “just like we do with Play-Doh.”

How Playing with Food Inspires Creativity

At a very early age, we are encouraged to play with our food in our high chairs! Studies indicate that playing with food encourages sensory development. As we begin to use a fork and spoon, the expectations change. We must now learn new rules. Don’t put your fingers in the food. Eat with your spoon. Wipe your mouth. Don’t play with your food.

Rules. Restrictions. Lots of don’ts. This stuff kills creativity!

The workplace can kill creativity too. Yes, even in a restaurant kitchen. Especially in a restaurant kitchen! In a professional kitchen, we have to produce the menu items consistently. There’s no room for “how about this” or “what if we tried it this way.” The customer wants the same dish, prepared the same way, garnished the same way, and with the same flavor! It’s a very stressful setting, and unless you’re working for a high-end restaurant with lots of kitchen staff, keeping things the same is critical. The only person who is allowed any creative growth is the chef.

That was me 29 years ago. I made it for one year and a few days. I’m happy not to have that kind of stress anymore! It beat the creativity out of me. It can happen in any work setting.

Once I had recovered, I realized I was happier sharing recipes than banking and cooking them. I started a food blog–a creative outlet I have maintained since 2006. I started out slowly, and increased to bi-monthly and monthly posts. Later I managed to post every other week. Now I try (I do have other demands) TRY to post weekly with time off for holidays. Currently, there are over 61,000 views of my blog.

Today, I play with food all the time!


Remove the phrases I don’t know and I can’t.

Forget the fear. Let it go. It’s like doing a crossword with a pen! Move forward boldly. What can go wrong? Really?

Plan ahead. Measure everything and group the ingredients that will be combined. Typically things like dry ingredients are mixed, sugar and butter are combined first for a cake, oil and onions/peppers/garlic (aromatics), and so on.

You don’t need a recipe. SO true, but people are afraid of this more than anything else. You know that you can make a salad without a recipe, right? Of course. Well, it’s the same concept as cookery. You must know a few basic things: Heat the pan first before adding oil, dry meat, fish, or shrimp with a paper towel before adding to a hot pan. (Cold pan or moist protein will cause sticking like the devil!) Add herbs at the end for a fresh flavor pop; dry herbs and spices at the beginning. You almost always begin with onions. Don’t add the garlic until the onions are almost done. (Garlic can burn and turn bitter, so don’t give it too much time in a hot pan before adding liquids.) After browning the meat, you can deglaze the pan by adding any of the following: wine, stock, broth, tomatoes with juice, and onions.

A recipe can be good (it’s a formula for success), BUT you don’t always need one. If you’re baking a cake, you need a recipe. It’s crucial. Surprisingly, if you have the essential knowledge (ratio of baking powder to flour, number of eggs and sugar in a typical recipe), then you can create your OWN recipe from that. You decide on flavors. You decide if it will be a layered cake or if you’ll cut it into squares, pour chocolate over each square and serve it on individual plates with whipped cream and toasted almonds. Adding salt and pepper to the pot is the same as adding them to your plate. You add what seems appropriate, taste, and adjust. It’s as easy as that. 

Your imagination and experience in tasting food combinations all of your life have prepared you for creativity in the kitchen.


Many creative people have their finger in several projects:

TONY BENNET: Singer & artist. He built a new following by collaborating with younger singers like Lady Gaga.

JACQUES PEPIN: Chef, cookbook author, artist. Jacques sees beyond the kitchen to the front of his restaurants. Every menu is hand-drawn by Jacques, as are many illustrations in his books.

SCOTT AVETT (of the band The Avett Brothers): First an artist, then a successful musician. Now both.


I believe that we learn in one creative endeavor we can apply to another. Creative problem-solving in the kitchen prepares us for the office, for backpacking on a remote trail, for planning a big event–for just about anything.


Forget the Fear

Plan Ahead

You don’t need a Recipe

A Recipe Can be Good (it’s a formula for success), BUT you can create your OWN.


Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (one of the stories in her book Seven Gothic Tales)

Also, a movie. In Danish with subtitles. Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Questlove

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin I recommend the audio version, which is like being led in meditation. A very Zen-like experience. I’m listening to it currently, just letting wash over me for now.



Her Website: https://despidoodle.com/

Her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/despidoodle/

Her Cookbook Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GreekHeritageCookingSimplified

Despina’s Food Blog: https://alphagoodcookcooking.blogspot.com/

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Beer and Napkins Kicks Off Creative with their New Year V Sessions

Artist and Designer John Digney will inspire with his creative journey

One of Beer and Napkin’s goals for the New Year is to nurture the creative soul of the community. Initially, the V Sessions or VUCA Sessions aimed to support a small group with connections and knowledge sharing around change. This has expanded to a larger audience and will serve a greater purpose of brewing creative inspiration.

Our initial Beer and Napkins V Session Creative Kickstart to 2023 will feature Artist and Designer John Digney. John will share some of his journey from Director of Industrial Design with American Greetings to his post-career passion for his Irish heritage, ancient stone craft, and design. His latest work is with the Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland, www.DSWAI.ie. You can read more about some of his adventures here. https://iirish.us/2022/12/01/stone-mad-the-making-of-a-wall/

You can sign up for our Jan 3rd, 2023 Creative Kickstart on our Beer and Napkin’s Meetup Page https://www.meetup.com/beer-and-napkins-community-of-growth/events/290546244?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=share-btn_savedevents_share_modal&utm_source=link

About our Speaker
John Digney is an Artist /Designer who received his BFA in Industrial Design from the Cleveland Institute of Art. He was raised in the Cleveland neighborhood of Westpark near Kamm’s Corner, and he and his wife, Kathleen, now reside in Greenville, SC.

About Beer and Napkins V Sessions
Beer and Napkins V Sessions are designed to build a community around knowledge sharing with the specific purpose of creatively nurturing resilience in the face of change.

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Brewing Ideas for the Future

Experiencing collective in-person events has always been the catalyst of the Beer and Napkins Community. One of our last live events was in January 2020, presciently titled The VUCA Sessions: Navigating and Embracing Chaos; little did we know of the things we were to experience in the last few years. Of course, we pivoted and adapted to technology like many other communities. Our intimate VUCA group discussions help us thrive amidst such an isolating dynamic. This adaption and evolution of the use of emerging approaches to enhance our experiences will be ongoing. However, the spirit of camaraderie, the clinking of mugs, the tactile exercise of scribbling on a napkin will not be forgotten and permeates everything we do. AI is an exciting metaphor for using technology to support the creative spirit. Artificial Intelligence will continue to infuse in all we do. For example, a friend of mine, Dave Gray, introduced me to MidJourney AI, where AI-generated art is produced with descriptive words and phrases. As an artist, we can either adopt or reject creatively. I have adopted and used this to support my artistic endeavors (See AI art produced with sketching in pubs as some keywords). The same thought can be applied to Beer and Napkins, using technology to enhance the community experience. We are excited about the possibilities.

As we move onward, the Beer and Napkins community will continue to brew ideas for the Future, virtually or in person. We will leverage our third places, technology, and talent network to support idea development within our community and beyond.

Phil McCreight, Founder

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The VUCA Sessions: Navigating and Embracing Chaos

On January 22,  Lisa Marie Corley and Teddi Fishman visited Beer and Napkins at the Liability Tap Room in Greenville, to share some activities based on improv comedy. The theme of the evening was  “navigating and embracing chaos,” chosen to align with the VUCA Sessions framework. In this post, Teddi answers a series of questions about the purpose and value of those activities: 

Q: Embrace chaos? We came to talk and drink beer! Why purposefully take us out of our comfort zones?
A:  While there are lots of specific reasons—ranging from simply breaking the ice in social settings to interrupting and resetting dysfunctional workplace communication patterns–the “meta” purpose of exercises like these is to take our brains off of auto-pilot and “goose” them into thinking thoughts and making choices they wouldn’t normally entertain.

Q: Goosing brains? Seems like that would be uncomfortable–and possibly an HR violation. Why would people want to do that?

A: Think about your commute to work. You’ve done it hundreds of times, so you don’t have to think much about the choices along the way. Turn here. Exit there. Same route, same highway, but very little thought or even perception.

Now imagine that one day, a tree falls across the road, and you can’t get onto the highway. Imagine your phone can’t tell you what to do. All of a sudden, you’re in uncharted territory, where each intersection is a choice. You see—maybe for the first time—what has been around you, just out of sight, all along. Even more importantly, you’re engaged. You have to make decisions, and each one is new.  Every choice is an active choice. It’s an exercise for your brain. It has to do new work to get you where you want to go. New discoveries can be made.

Q. So now our brains have been goosed, and you’ve made them work out. How does that prepare us for a world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity? My brain is tired and just wants to collapse on the couch!

A: Our brains DO want to sit on the couch. They conserve energy constantly by falling into habits and patterns that, for the most part, serve us when the status quo is what we want. But when things are volatile, uncertain, complex ambiguous, or when the status quo just isn’t working as desired, the tendency to follow habits and patterns makes it harder to adapt and change. Going back to the road example—if you go the way you’ve always gone, you’re going to keep getting to the same place. Sometimes a tree in the road is exactly what you need.

Q: OK, it makes sense that we would keep doing what we do until there is a reason to do something differently, but why improv? Isn’t that just for nerds and the poorly adjusted?

A: Wait. What? No! Or, maybe! But the serious answer to this question is twofold—one practical reason and one more conceptual. The practical reason is that when we put ourselves in situations where we have to make quick decisions that are bounded by constraints, our brains go into overdrive, and grab whatever they can—even the unfamiliar. The activities force participants to be fully present in the moment because there is no planning ahead—you don’t know what will be coming next.  That works different “brain muscles” than the ones we typically use. Our usual filters—filters we don’t even necessarily know we have—don’t have time to engage. Without time to ask ourselves “will this sound smart?” or “is this what will make my boss think I’m ready for a promotion?” we generate responses and ideas that can surprise and delight. More importantly, though, having gone down an unfamiliar path opens up future possibilities for exploration.

Conceptually, improv is based on a set of principles that drive and facilitate not only creativity but also positive communication patterns. The foundation of improv is “yes, and.” That means that when you are presented with an offer—an idea—you bypass skepticism and other defensive “walls.” Your job, instead, is to take the offer and build upon it. For the purpose of the exercise, whatever has been said is valid and your role is to make it better. The exercise we did in which we built a word-at-a-time sentence is that in its simplest form. Each participant accepts the words that have come before, then adds something, in hopes of contributing to a sentence that will eventually succeed. No one person can control it; the group has collective responsibility for the outcome. It sounds simple, but consider the difference between that and your most recent office meeting. Did it seem like folks were inclined to accept or at least entertain the contributions of others, and then build on it toward collaborative greatness? A little yes-and-ing can go a long way!

Q: So you goosed us, worked us out, got our brains off their couches, and made them “yes, and.”  With friends, and with beer, it went fine, but even there, there were some tense moments. Surely it doesn’t always work. What if people fail?

One of the best things about improv is its resilience.  While it’s true that not everything succeeds, it’s also almost impossible to ruin it. (Trust me. I’ve tried.) When it goes well, it goes well and it’s great. When it doesn’t—well, sometimes that can be even funnier. But even when it doesn’t go well, and it isn’t funny, you can step back, see what can be learned, and nothing breaks. You can try again. In fact, some of the very best lessons are those that come from failure—which is a lesson in and of itself. There’s pretty much no safer space in which to fail than in a friendly, non-theatrical improv game. The rules of each game are the “tree in the road” that is the catalyst to thinking differently.

Q. OK, I guess I’ll consent to a bit of goosing if it helps me prepare for success in a VUCA world. But how do I take what we did at Beer and Napkins and translate it into what I do in other settings?

A. Well, that answer largely depends on what you do with it. Like any other practice, changing the way you think takes . . . practice. The more you habituate your brain to thinking differently, the more it will change, and also, the more comfortable changing will become.  The kinds of change people generally want most, however, take more than a few exercises, and more than one brain. What we did were the first steps—steps to help people get out of their comfortable patterns and feel safe to take the initial plunge. The amount of change you want to effect will determine what kind and how much additional work you’ll need to do. Just want a little brain reboot? Play a game or two! Want to revitalize your working group? Maybe take an afternoon workshop. Need to turn around a whole workplace culture? That’s a sustained effort, but it can be done.

Q. Wait. Are you saying that a few improv games can turn around a whole culture?
A. Not by themselves. Any workplace culture that can be “fixed” by a few games is a culture that’s pretty healthy to start with, but improv games are not the only thing we have in our bag of tricks. Large-scale cultural change takes a more comprehensive approach that starts with identifying goals and values, looking at systems, processes, and incentives, and helps develop leaders from within the culture to guide and manage positive change—a bit much for a night at Liability Brewing. We had just enough time for a brief introduction, but in the short amount of time we spent together, participants allowed themselves to be vulnerable, tried some (slightly scary) unfamiliar activities and explored some new ways of thinking. We saw creativity, collaborative thinking, collegiality and yes, a little chaos—and still lived to tell the tale! It was a good start and also a reminder that living in a VUCA world can be fun.

Note from Lisa and Teddi: Thank you for inviting us, for taking chances, and letting us be your tree.

You can reach Teddi and Lisa on their LinkedIn pages.

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Beer and Napkins Year in Review 2019

As we near the close of 2019, I want to take the time to reflect on the many relationships and ideas that make Beer and Napkins possible. It is easy to forget all the things we do and the people who make it happen in the year!   First, I am appreciative of my accomplice, Paul Hebert who has been with me cultivating the Beer and Napkins vision for almost 10 years.  Also, my friends and colleagues Tony Miller, Pam Wood Browne, Greg Holiday, and my brother Joel McCreight who have continually encouraged and nurtured our crazy ideas.  Additionally, I want to thank two special individuals who have inspired me, Saul Kaplan, founder of the Business Innovation Factory, who has connected me to wonderfully serendipitous network and unlocked my perception of the connective and collaborative power of community.   Last but not least, David Gray, who took special time with me to expand my knowledge of visual thinking.  I know there are many more who have contributed to Beer and Napkins and have helped me grow, forgive me if I did not mention you, but I am grateful for you.

Not sure if it is my age or viewpoint, but 2019 has been a hectic year personally and professionally.  Stack on the geopolitical chaos that has been permeating our feeds and collective psyche, I could think of no better acronym to describe the zeitgeist we are experiencing…


VUCA, coined at the Army War College to describe this chaotic, asymmetrical environment was the theme of Beer and Napkins this year.  VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.  This theme was the top of my TEDxTalk I conducted in March this year, it chronicled my non-linear career path along with a perspective of freedom fighters, borrowing on the lyrics from the play Hamilton’s Stay Alive, “Outrun, Outlast, and Hit ‘em Quick and Get out Fast”.   Key takeaways:  To be successful in the VUCA world, Reduce your Biases, Embed yourself in a Community, and Try Small Experiments.

See my TEDxTalk here:  Face Change Like a Freedom Fighter

Thank you, Lisa Corley, for the picture!

Much of the year was building on this theme with meetups, podcasts dedicated to dialogue on how to navigate this VUCA world.

Freedom Fighters

As part of this year’s theme we wanted to recognize those who embody Freedom Fighter qualities, appropriately focused in the “revolutionary” month of July we recognized the following individuals for their bias reducing, community building, and experimental focus.

The recipients were:

Pam Wood Browne

Caroline Caldwell-Richmond

Juan Gonzalez

Saul Kaplan

Phil Yanov

Each of these Freedom Fighters helps their respective communities in education, preparation, and connections. Thank you for your inspiration!


In 2019, we had several VUCA Meetups with the topic around Career Hacking.   Our goal was to build a community around experimentation, pushing the boundaries around traditional career paths and approaches to job searches, career assessments, and resources.


We also had a unique opportunity to expand our conversations to the Chicago area. Special thank you to Molly M. Cantrell-Kraig for hosting a VUCA session on resilience and sharing her new bias busting book “Circuit Train Your Brain”  

Big thanks to Pete Wendell, another BIF connection for helping nurture the Chicago conversations.


Events and Meetups are at the heart of our vision to nurture ideas in 3rd Spaces.  Community Tap has been a big supporter and we appreciate the space where we can drink good beer and do community brainstorming. Thank you Community Tap!  A big thank you to Susan McLarty, Coordinator for Greenville Homeless Alliance, of the city of Greenville. In partnership, this past year Beer and Napkins coordinated three events related to sustainable and resilient Greenville communities. We called it LinkinGVL.

The two events were:

LinkingGVL: Rethinking the link of Affordable Housing and Accessible Public Transportation

LinkingGVL: Rethinking Link of the Comprehensive Plan: Connecting Housing, Transportation and Land Use.


We love Podcasts! It is a great way to learn and connect with great minds! We recorded three podcasts this year, we had an innovator, an artist, and a futurist… what a fun and engaging experience this year with these awesome folks

Innovator, Consultant, and Mentor Deb Mills-Scofield – The Blue Lobster

UK Artist and Creative Organizational Development  –  Doug Shaw – Keep It Messy!

Futurist and Advisor- Dr. Chris Rice- Future is Not what it Seems


What’s Next…The Roaring Twenties

Well, let’s just hope there is no prohibition! We may just have to go underground.  In all seriousness, we hope to continue to diversify our connections, our projects, and perspectives this coming year. Being a Freedom Fighter will become ubiquitously part of our modus in the coming years.  Please stay tuned for our long-gestating Beer and Napkins Field Book. As we pursued small experiences beyond our Greenville home, we strive to continue our vision of a revolution of ideas throughout this country and the world through partnerships, ecosystem development, and technology.   Please let us know your ideas and thoughts on how we can serve you and your community.

Thank you and have a blessed New Year

Phil McCreight

Founder, Beer and Napkins.

[email protected]

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Cheers! Beer and Napkins has started a Podcast!

We are excited to be starting our podcast.  Beer and Napkins founders Paul Hebert and Phil McCreight share musings on current events, ideas, design, and community…with a vibe of informality. Check us out!


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Frustrated…Slow down, Talk, and Drink a Beer


Courtesy of Tommy Ga-Ken Wan 溫嘉勤


I was going to write about the reboot of Beer and Napkins but I feel it is more important to address the zeitgeist that has zombified all of us into snap judgments and digitally driven antagonism.

From emerging technology changes to hyper-connected politically driven blah-blahs, we are living in harsher times.  Hack journalists are spreading fake news and pushy marketers are overly sensationalizing their products for the sake of social metrics. This ubiquitous platform push of information is causing us to be over stimulated, intensely connected to events and situations.  Paradoxically, we are unconnected emotionally to each other more than ever. We lash out in anger, quickly without checking our emotions, but then it is too late. How do we address this Molotov cocktail that’s fueling an acrimonious wedge in our society? Continue reading

Beer and Napkins Supports Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Scholarships available for their new GVL Starts Entrepreneurship Program

Beer and Napkins is excited to be supporting Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship GVL Starts. For a program overview, please visit  https://www.furman.edu/innovation-entrepreneurship/programs/gvl-starts/  or for more information, contact [email protected]

The Institute will give a 50% scholarship to the first 5 who apply (so it would only be $149). Just enter “50% Beer and Napkins Scholarship” in question 18/last question of the application. For application, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GVLSTARTS