What is your official title?
I am the Owner and Operator of Organic Gypsy – I like both because it denotes that it’s mine and I do all of the work behind it as well.
What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?
There is no typical day, which is probably why I love it so much. Some days I get up at 6:30 in the morning and teach a yoga class and then go to my real job and chop onions or make soup or barbecue sauce, and do dishes for eight hours. Other days I consider myself a professional hauler – catering equals hauling. If we are going anywhere in the truck it probably takes us about 30 minutes to load it. Then there’s travel time, setup, unloading, and reloading. Professional hauler could be my title, too.
Other days we are up at 6:00am going to the Farmers Market and working the griddle cooking eggs and bacon. I have to spend a lot of time on my computer as well; I don’t have an accountant or marketing person, I do all of the work behind the scenes along with the cooking. I do paperwork, inventory, and taxes, all that good stuff. It takes longer to do all of that stuff than I had imagined, so lots of early mornings or late nights taking care of those types of things.
Other times, like in the summer, we’ll take the truck and head out to a festival for three nights. That’s when I’m a real gypsy and I live in a tent and do the festival scene! I got on the path to starting my own business when I went to apply for a “real job” and I was having difficulty even applying. I’m a very driven person and I have goals and I knew I needed a job, but I had a real moment with myself. I was like, “alright, what’s the problem here? You’re not even trying to get a job.” And it was because it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I have a degree in economics, so I was looking for a typical business job, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. That’s when plan b started!
What is The Organic Gypsy?
I am a caterer, I’m a food truck, and the food itself is local, organic and healthy. I think people sometimes say those things, but not many people have the execution and follow through that I do; I take those things very seriously. I don’t believe that local food is a trend. There are a lot of hard decisions to make when you’re staying true to your brand promise. I don’t have to get in my car and drive 45 minutes to pick up meat from my local organic farmer that’s three times as expensive per pound than it is at the store; that’s a tough one, but I do it.
I really believe in what I’m doing and I do what I say I’m going to. My dad was in the Navy, and from childhood he always said, “Your word is all you have!” When you give someone your word, you stand by it, and I do my best in my business with those tough decisions. I take it all very seriously. I think it’s one of the things that sets me apart.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I get a lot of inspiration from the product itself. The first question I ask myself is what do I have? What do we have to work with? One day we had a bunch of local spinach and local yogurt. So we looked at each other and did some brainstorming, and we made a spinach yogurt dip – it was awesome! It’s very backwards from other places – people usually figure out what they want and then find a source.
I also get inspiration from traveling. I like to get out and travel and see how people do things in other areas. That’s where I really feel inspired. San Francisco is my favorite place to go; they have a great food culture there. I also follow blogs online and read cookbooks; Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks are great, she’s awesome.
I have a new cookbook I really love from my favorite cafe back in San Francisco called Tartine. Chad Robertson started it with his wife, Liz. It’s a whole grain baking book; it’s been my inspiration because I found a granary very close to Kalamazoo and they do all of their own buckwheat, corn, and spelt, then mill it all so it’s very fresh. The book is called Number Three, because it’s their third book.
What is your culinary background?
Growing up, my mom made dinner every night. She would cook a piece of meat, bake a potato, and boil a vegetable, and that’s what we grew up eating. She was the one who taught me that sitting around and sharing a meal with the people in your life is one of the most important things you can do. She also made homemade desserts and baked a lot, all very simple and delicious. I learned a lot from baking and being in the kitchen with my mom.
I always knew food was a strong interest of mine. When I was 18, even though I was already committed to Kalamazoo College, I visited a culinary school out in San Francisco. I toured the school and thought it was awesome, but didn’t want to pigeonhole myself to just working in a restaurant, because I thought you couldn’t have a normal family life. Which is funny because today my life definitely couldn’t be considered a normal family life!
I planned to get a typical business job after I graduated college, but then got involved in the health and wellness industry doing personal training, yoga and pilates. During that time, I loved what I was doing and started to get more and more into food. I was reading a bunch of books and started making this “healthy food” and bringing it to my clients. I’d bring in healthy cookies with chickpeas and zucchini! I did that for probably a year, when one of my clients, who survived a brain tumor, said to me – I’ll never forget this conversation – “Bridgett, food is clearly a passion of yours. You need to do something with this.” I kind of took it with a grain of salt, but I went home that night, and started Googling healthy cooking schools. The school was in San Francisco, and I was living in Chicago at the time, but I just felt like I had to do it. I went to Bauman College. They have two programs there, a certified natural chef and a nutrition consultant. They are focused on very healthy, local, seasonal whole foods.
Tell us about how you started The Organic Gypsy.
I was drinking, probably a little too much, red wine with some of my friends from Bauman, and talking about what we all were going to do once we graduated. I was telling them how I wanted to go to this yoga festival in Lake Tahoe and how expensive the tickets were. One of my friends looked at me very casually and said, “You should just be a gypsy, and travel around to festivals and make food.” When they said you should be the traveling gypsy, I was like, no, I want to be the organic traveling gypsy!
I was thinking about possibly doing a tent configuration or a food truck, and one of my friends who had a cookie business said, “Bridgett, go big or go home and get a food truck!” So, I called my parents who were living in Michigan – this was about four years ago when there were definitely no food trucks here – and I told them I was starting a business and I was calling it the Organic Gypsy. They thought I was nuts; they had never heard of a food truck, but I told them it was happening.
Shortly after, I called my dad and told him I was going to Portland to buy a truck. He came out there with me and we started talking about it. Then we thought, why would we buy one if we could just make one? And that’s what we did. My family and I built my food truck together. I bought it off of eBay and it was a blank white shell; the process of building it out and getting the license was probably the most taxing part of starting my business.
Where do you teach yoga?
I teach on Mondays at Down Dog Yoga Center. My 12:00 pm class is a traditional power yoga style, and my 2:00 pm class is yoga for servers; it’s for people who are on their feet all day, carrying things around, lots of hip and shoulder opening poses. And I also teach two classes at Kalamazoo College for their students.
What kind of projects are you currently working on?
I’ve got a few. One thing I started doing in the winter is a Soup CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and next week I’m starting a salad and a juice CSA. CSA is typically used on farms, you pay a membership fee and get a box of whatever produce is available that week. I’m using the same principles, but with prepared foods instead.
Each week I’ll make a salad inspired by local ingredients, as well as a juice. The salads are interesting and fun, and they’re all vegetarian-gluten free. Customers can buy a membership, and each week they get whatever we decide to prepare. Businesses in Kalamazoo that have five orders get free delivery each week.
The second project is weekly meal catering. We make dinner for people, which sounds kind of boring, but I really enjoy it. It’s such a basic problem – ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ Especially people with children, it adds another element of ‘what do we feed the kids?’ We’re trying to take that stress away; we’ll make the food for you, we’ll make it different, it’ll taste good, and it’ll be healthy. You can come pick it up, or for $10, we’ll deliver it to your door. Every Thursday we release a new menu, posted online or sent via email, and you can order till Monday. Then Tuesday is delivery or pick up day.
On May 16th, I am doing a giveaway for a free KitchenAid Mixer. We will be open for lunch at our commissary kitchen location on South Burdick, so people can come in and eat lunch at the kitchen and enter for the giveaway!
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
When I hang out with my friends from California, they give me these looks like, how could you ever leave this place? But what I’ve realized from living a lot of different places is that no place is perfect. There are several things I love about living here; one is the affordability. It’s such an affordable place to be able to have a great lifestyle. I drive to work every day and never have to get on an expressway. There are enough amenities to make it feel just big city enough. There’s no traffic, and it’s free to park downtown; those are amenities I can really appreciate after living in various places all over the country. I love Art Hop and Alamo. Also, I like the cool things that people are doing here. It’s just eclectic enough that it attracts people doing cool, different things.
What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?
My intern just got a new job, and she said one of things she missed most about working with us is jamming out to music. It depends on our mood; a lot of times it’s Nellyville on Pandora. Other times when we need to take it down a notch, we put on Alison Kraus. Then there’s always the standbys, the albums I could listen to over and over again would be the Lumineers, the Avett Brothers, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Of Monsters and Men; all of those are my favorites. We’re super into music, but we have to use our resources wisely to create an enjoyable atmosphere in the kitchen. A mason jar and kitchen pot serve as our surround sound system, so we can blast it and go crazy. It makes it fun.
Where do you look for interns?
I had an employee, and she was a student at Western Michigan University in their Food Service Administration program. She was using real world examples to talk about things they were learning in school, so the program reached out to me and asked if I would take interns. I was a little hesitant at first. The people I’ve had work with me have come to me and not known how to chop an onion, so it’s a lot of personal investment and a lot of teaching. I’ve had three interns so far, and this will be my second year with students from Kalamazoo College; they have a summer externship program, so I’ve had three from Western and two from K College.
How do you take your coffee?…or do you?
I’m a little embarrassed, but I take my coffee with a ton of cream; no sugar, none of that, but heavy on the cream. Shout out to Waterstreet – that’s my jam!
What is your favorite app to use?
I am not tech savvy; I do tweet a little, and I’d probably say Pandora because I rely on it daily.
Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?
I just went to Arcadia for the first time and I got a Deliverance beer; I thought to myself I want to warm this up and drink it as coffee tomorrow morning. If it’s a Friday night, I’ll take the 5:30pm yoga class at Down Dog Yoga Center, then go to O’Duffy’s to have a margarita (or two? haha!) and their spinach and feta burger, and I’m the happiest woman in the world; I love it.
People always ask me where I eat; I love Rustica and I want to give a shout out to the People’s Food Co-op. They’ve been putting out a lot of great stuff in their deli and I go there often. My favorite thing out of their deli is their Oatmeal Cream Pies. They’re vegan, and they’re just so good, totally addicting. They also had chicken and dumplings on the hot bar one day, they just smelled so good. As the cashier was ringing me up, I walked away and grabbed a to-go container of the chicken and dumplings, and let me tell you, they were legit! I called the Co-op when I got home to tell them to make them every week. Hashtag, nailed it.
What utensil couldn’t you live without?
Hands down, actually, I don’t know what the technical name is, but it’s a scraper. You have to get the stainless steel kind, not the cheap plastic ones. We chop all of these veggies and have a pile of chopped veggies on the cutting board, and from there, they will get transferred to a pot or a bowl. How are you supposed to move the chopped veggies to where they are supposed to go? If you take your knife and drag it, you’re going to dull your knife – don’t ever do that. It’s a metal scraper with a handle, and it just scrapes everything right up to where it belongs. For instance, if we are peeling ginger and you need to separate the peels from the ginger, get that scraper out and take care of it. Nothing is wasted with the kitchen scraper.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was in second grade, my best friend told me she was going to University of Michigan and that she was going to be a lawyer. Our whole lives, from that time on, that’s what she wanted to do, and that’s what she did – she graduated from U of M, and is now a lawyer in Chicago. All I can think of is that was never me. I have never known what exactly I wanted to do like she did. What I did know is that I’ve always wanted to have my own business and be an entrepreneur.
What is your dream for Organic Gypsy?
My dream is that my current programs continue to expand. I want my CSA’s for prepared food to grow, and I want to keep doing my farm to table dinners. I want to continue to be able to do what I’m doing. I also handcraft all of these beverages, and I want to have an artisan beverage line. If I had more capital and more time, I would love for Sawall’s or the Co-op to have my homemade Root Beer on the shelf next to their pop. It’s locally made in Michigan with no sugar and no preservatives. I’m really into the idea of developing a product like that, so stay tuned!
Where can people find the Organic Gypsy?
I am a gypsy, and the truck moves a lot. I’ve found that it’s been hard for people to keep track of me. The way I can communicate most effectively with my customers is through email. On my website there is a newsletter sign up, and if you go through that you’ll get all of my updates. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter, but email is definitely the best way to stay updated on our programs and truck appearances.
Bridgett, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Bridgett and The Organic Gypsy on facebook and twitter. Also, be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.