The chopping of vegetables, the swirling of a blender, the countdown on the timer and the delicate slurp off of a spoon describe the culinary career of Wright State alumna Michelle Bridges.
As executive chef at Wilson Health in Sidney, Ohio, Bridges is responsible for managing and preparing the food.
Bridges first started cooking before the age of 7, developing not only a talent in the kitchen, but a passion for the art of cooking.
The love of the culinary arts runs through Bridge’s family. Her mother encouraged her to develop her skills as a cook from an early age.
“My mom used to pull up a stepstool for me to reach the kitchen counter so I could make my own sandwiches,” said Bridges.
When she was 8, she won the Miami County Fair for cooking as a member of the Covington 4-H club.
“I can’t imagine growing up in a family who didn’t live to eat and love to cook,” she said.
Bridges obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in business administration and marketing from Wright State. She originally planned to pursue career in marketing, but while working a marketing position her mind wandered to cookbooks.
While she was studying marketing, Bridge’s “true love was for food and she felt a burning love for food,” said Josh Dziedzicki, director of support services at Wilson Health.
So Bridges enrolled at Sinclair College, where she received an associate degree for hospitality administration and management and an associate degree in culinary arts and chef training. She has worked as a chef instructor at Sinclair.
Bridges is active in and certified by the American Culinary Federation as a culinarian and executive pastry chef. She was named Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, Dayton chapter, in 2013.
“We spoke the same language about food during the interview,” said Dziedzicki. “She’s been a great fit in the kitchen and the environment that we have. She has great insight … and has taken the staff under her wing. She’s gained tremendous trust from the staff in a short amount of time.”
Bridges mixes a variety of ingredients into her everyday tasks at Wilson Health. She is responsible for the production of food; creates the catering and cafeteria menus; works as a pastry chef; oversees the management, training and education of her staff; oversees the innovation station, which serves fresh ingredients to patients; and works for Sodexo, a French food service originally started in the Paris suburbs.
Since Bridges has served in nearly 10 kitchens, she is no stranger to understanding what people want to eat and how they want it served.
“She’s a pastry chef. All her desserts are wonderful,” said Molly Douglas, supervisor of food services and dietician at Wilson Health. “She brings a lot of experience to the plate. I’ve learned a lot from her, myself.”
The innovation station at Wilson Health has a great reputation among patients.
“It’s been a big hit with our regular guests. In addition, I’ve provided cooking demonstrations for more healthy alternatives to Wilson employees,” said Bridges. “We are utilizing more fresh produce and herbs in our meals and continue to progress in plate presentation for all services. Many guests who visit our cafe are in need of a comforting experience — a familiar food and a warm smile to make them feel at ease. It’s important to make a difference in people’s lives by providing wonderful food with excellent customer service.”
Bridges hopes to help Wilson Health patients by providing nutritious food, offering training to dietary employees and streamline the processes in the kitchen.
“I hope the guests can see how much effort we put into every dish,” Bridges said. “We create meals not only for our patients, but we also provide culinary delights to those individuals who provide the daily care of our patients. Some days it’s all they can do just to make it to the café, or at times we send meals to our nursing staff on busy days when ‘break’ is not an option. I want people to make the choice to visit us in the cafe because they look forward to the quality of food we offer, to change the perception of ‘hospital’ food.”
For healthy food choices, Bridges encourages grilling, roasting, poaching and baking as an alternative to frying.
Some of her presentation skills and food advertising may have been born from her marketing experience at Wright State.
“Utilizing fresh herbs and creating low-fat marinades enhances flavor,” Bridges said. “Don’t forget we eat with our eyes first, so providing a professional presentation with a garnish on a nice plate makes it more fulfilling.”
“I love the creative process in food service,” she said. “There is always something to learn and experience. I love to create things that make people happy.”