meet bridgett: kalamazoo food trucker on a mission

Organic Gypsy on People With Panache

Bridgett has tons of allergy-friendly options—and at a farmers market last summer actually served one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ little boys, who had gluten, wheat, dairy and other allergies. Her truck had the only food the little guy could eat. (She just gets more and more awesome!)

Bridgett was living in San Francisco when she had a five-minute chat that changed her life and brought her back to the Midwest. She had an idea: she’d be an organic gypsy with a traveling food truck.

Two years later, we’re so glad she’s back in Michigan, her home state, bringing the best food to festivals and fairs. Every single thing she serves is local, organic and ridiculously tasty. (Check out her schedule here and try the breakfast sandwich!)

People with Panache: Please tell us a little more about that life-changing conversation!

Bridgett Blough: I was with some chef friends, from my certified natural chef training in San Francisco, at Lake Tahoe in the winter. We were sledding and hanging out. I was reading and writing on a retreat with these girlfriends, and we’d come together and make meals. One night we made this beautiful dinner and started drinking red wine and talking about life after school.

Bridgett Blough on People With Panache

Some of Bridget’s advice: Soar with your strengths. You’re not good at everything, so do what you’re good and efficient at.

I said I was going to Wanderlust, this yoga festival. But I went online and it was $900 for a 2-day pass! I don’t like when yoga is this elitist thing, so I was wanting to go but not willing to spend that much money. As I was looking for a ‘volunteer’ button, navigating their site, I came across vendor village, not making the connection that I’d ever be a vendor. But I realized for pretty much the same price I could be a vendor and get two passes and have a chance to make money.

We were all in chef school so our whole lives were about food and cooking. So I thought I’d sell some kind of yummy, nutritious food.

“Everyone is given the same opportunity to manifest whatever they truly want in life.”

My friends said, “Bridgett you should be a traveling gypsy and go from fest to fest.”

I agreed: “I could just sell people nourishing food! I could be a traveling gypsy—but I want to be an organic one.”

Organic Gypsy on People With Panache

This winter Bridgett plans to dabble in preparing foods for busy families. Here she buys a yummy almond treat from a nearby vendor.

PWP: So that’s how the Organic Gypsy was born?

BB: The idea was planted in my brain, and it was a done deal at that point. I had no idea what I was doing when I did the application. I called my parents and said I’m going to start a business: The Organic Gypsy. They said, “You have gone crazy.”

Then I realized I needed to make a decision: Am I going to build a food truck or have a tent set up?

PWP: Why did you choose truck?

BB: My girlfriend ran a cookie company, which she shut down because she felt like she wasn’t contributing to society. We had this conversation about when she’d travel to markets—and the worst part was hauling stuff.

So I traveled up to Portland—food truck mecca—to look at a food truck. But after a conversation with my dad—“You don’t even know how to change your own oil!”—and seeing the mileage on this expensive piece of equipment, we decided we could build our own exactly how I wanted it.

PWP: Wow! Then what?

Organic Gypsy Menu on People With Panache

One concept we learned and loved from Bridgett’s schooling is SOUL food. It stands for seasonal, organic, unrefined, local.

BB: I moved home to build it with my family. It’s totally custom.

They didn’t take me seriously at first, but I’m very persistent. I wrote a business plan—it wasn’t just a flippant decision. I mean at first people were like, “What is a food truck?” In the last three years the food truck culture has really grown.

From when we’re little kids we want to make our parents happy, and don’t want to disappoint them, but at some point we just have to let that go. They want what’s best for me, but I know now that I’m a woman, on my own, and I know what’s best for me. It’s a total coming-of-age thing. A lot of people underestimate their power.

PWP: And I bet a lot of people think you’re “so lucky.”

BB: They think I was granted this special “whatever” that they weren’t, but what it really comes down to is that I understand that everyone else is given the same opportunity to manifest whatever they truly want in life. Part of it is the really strong intention, and the other part is the work behind it. Positivity, hard work, creative problem-solving—it’s kind of American idealism. You can be anything you want to be!

“It’s about the local economy, environment and health.”

PWP: That’s such a good point—behind all the yummy food and the pretty blue truck is a ton of work.

BB: It’s been really hard, starting my business. You can’t even go anywhere and buy organic food around here (Kalamazoo, Mich.). I’m a pioneer in what I’m trying to do.

Some people are like, “Kale?” and complain when an item is $8. You will go out for a beer, and it will be $6, and you won’t think twice. This is all from local places. That pig got to walk around and got killed in a humane way. Your money went to a farmer 20 miles away, and he has that money now. It’s about the local economy, environment and health. It’s cheap! That’s what’s hard. It’s very interesting to watch people make decisions around money.

Bridgett Blough on People With Panache

“It can be a lot of pressure,” Bridgett says. “Maybe you don’t do what you love for work—but you have more money and time to do what you love. You can find meaning in your life, so don’t feel pressure to do it a certain way.”

PWP: What’s your favorite thing about your job?

BB: When people really appreciate what I’m doing. I sell a lot of breakfast sandwiches, and a few weeks ago this woman came back through the market and told me her breakfast sandwich was the best she had in her whole life. That’s why I came to work today! That will fill me up for three days.

PWP: What makes you happiest?

BB: Traveling, and having memorable experiences with food. I will never forget the ham and cheese croissant from Tartine in San Francisco. And I had this butterscotch bread pudding in Sonoma County, and a salad with shaved persimmons, green goddess dressing and butter lettuce. And now I have a card from them hanging up by my desk at home that reminds me: “Remember when you had that bite of bread pudding that made you so happy?”

PWP: Any other especially happy moments?

BB: I got worn out last year. I felt like I was doing everything wrong. But then I went to see Joel Salatin speak, a now-famous old-school farmer. He said a few sentences that were exactly what I needed that night: “You know what? For 20 years, every single day I got up and I worked at Polyface Farms and kept doing what I thought was right. Never underestimate the power of living your life with conviction.”

That was another moment I thought to myself: “This is right.”

[Photos by Alysse.]

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5 thoughts on “meet bridgett: kalamazoo food trucker on a mission

    1. peoplewithpanache

      We met her at a farmers’ market by my friend’s parents’ condo in Michigan! (In South Haven.) Her truck & mission were perfect for the blog—and so fitting with my values, too.

      Oh & btw: I feel like I’m coming down with a cold and tried warming socks last night. They seemed to help—I’ll let you know how night two goes!

      xo,
      Alysse

  1. Cindy Gear

    This one really hit home with me. I love her attitude and advice about her sense of conviction and power. Go, Bridgett!…..and Alysse & Kate. You two continue to amaze me as to how you find these amazing people to profile!

  2. Robyn Clark

    I love this post – being a girl from Kalamazoo too. You have to go for your dreams by pursuing your passions. I believe that is how you ultimately make the strongest contribution – and Bridget has that down in spades. Congrats to Alysse and Kate – you two continue amaze me – the stories you bring to us of people with both passion and an ability to apply that passion to make a difference is very inspiring.

  3. Morgan

    I’m a huge fan of this one, gals. Really inspiring that she went for it, with gusto, no matter who’s criticizing her for using kale (and other amazing organic goodies).

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