Fashioning the Future With: Chef Simone Bridges
If you're hungry for some sweet science, then salivating snickerdoodles, you're in the right place because we have celebrity Chef Simone Bridges on the blog today! Simone Bridges is a highly regarded culinary artist, a STEM advocate, a speaker, an author, and an accomplished businesswoman — and guess what — she's only twelve years old.
Simone, a.k.a. The STEM Chef, combines her talents in the kitchen with her passion for STEM mixed with her entrepreneurial spirit to run her business: Goddess Food Factory. Located in Jacksonville, Florida, Goddess Food Factory is the place for anyone interested in cool kitchen science. Goddess Food Factory offers cooking lessons, party activities, subscription box services, and more.
Chef Simone is also at home in the STEM spotlight which makes her an awesome #scicomm luminary. For instance, she taught Steve Harvey one of her favorite recipes (Read on to find out which one!) on his talk show Steve. Simone has also been featured by numerous outlets and was even on the cover of Inspiring Magazine. Not only that, but you can often spot Simone at culinary events all over the country.
Simone's accolades are already incredible, and she's certain to cook up an infinite batch more. We cannot wait to see what this STEM sensation does next! Read on to find out about how The STEM Chef built her empire, what words of wisdom she has for young entrepreneurs and young scientists, and what her super-rad super hero outfit and name would be! Meet Chef Simone Bridges.
When did you first know you were a scientist?
From a very young age, I always loved mixing things together and seeing what the outcome was going to be. Is it sticky, gooey, mushy, watery or powdery? As a baker, I was able to explore my scientific side almost daily.
When did you first get into baking?
I will always hold dear to my heart the day that my grandmother, Phyllis Williams, welcomed me to help her in the kitchen while she baked cakes. I would gaze at her for what seemed like hours while she added ingredients and mixed batter. I studied every move she made. Sometimes she gave me the spoon when she finished whipping up her cake batter. Of course, I believed that I had received a grand prize. The batter was so yummy. I licked it clean off the spoon. My grandmother is an old-school cook who is also a caterer; needless to say, she can cook and bake anything.
One day, I was finally brave enough to ask her if I could help. She looked at me and responded, “Girl, you’re not going to burn down my house.” I didn’t give up and inquired again. This time, without hesitation, she pulled a chair from the dining room table and positioned it so that I could stand on it to see what she was doing. She proceeded to hand me a cup of milk and told me to pour it in slowly while she stirred the batter. I smiled at her and followed every instruction given. Yes, at only three years old, it was the beginning of living my dream out loud. From that point on, I never missed an opportunity to help her bake.
And (you might have seen this question coming) when did you first combine your love of STEM and baking?
When I opened Goddess Food Factory on January 28, 2017, word quickly began to spread like wildfire about my unique twist on traditional pastries. I received visits by master chefs, celebrities and people from everywhere; both local in Jacksonville, Florida and beyond. Baking comes very natural to me and so does experimenting. As a student at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts, my love for Science and Mathematics coined me the nickname of the “STEM Chef.”
As popularity grew, there was an overwhelming number of requests for my recipes and educational baking classes. I combined with my love for STEM with baking and created the ExS.T.R.E.A.M. Baking Program. Shortly after the program, I added ExS.T.R.E.A.M. Baking Subscription Boxes which are monthly baking subscription boxes that infuse baking and cooking with Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. Today, my subscription baking boxes have reached homes in 46 states and in 3 countries. They’re sold on my website and in my store. Plus, my program has been taught all over the United States. The lesson that I learned was to be a continuous learner and to be creative with my business. This allowed my company to endure and expand. Along with the baking boxes, I also have ExS.T.R.E.A.M. FUN Boxes for girls and boys. They are theme-based subscription boxes that still teach STEM/STREAM concepts. Some of the themes include doctor, space, glamour, unicorn, and more.
What inspired you to turn your love of STEM and baking into a business?
Whenever I would conduct cooking classes, I naturally taught science and math during presentations. Customers and guests started calling me The STEM Chef. Later, my classes started getting very popular especially with educators and organizations. Then, I purposely began to ensure that Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STREAM) was incorporated into every class.
For Science, we mixed the ingredients. For Technology, I would provide various websites and apps for further explorations or for the participants to research more information on the ingredients. The Reading aspect is my favorite. Therefore, I recommended books on certain foods and chefs. For Engineering, the participants learned how to use various chef tools. The Art of baking and cooking involves the plating and use of color in food combinations. Sometimes, we sketched out the meal. Math is used throughout the baking process with determining the temperature, measurement, conversions and calorie count. My ExSTREAM Baking classes are very popular for their educational and delicious recipe aspects.
What’s been your favorite thing about running Goddess Food Factory?
I love people. I’m so fortunate that I get to meet new people every day. I listen to their success stories and challenges. I share helpful tips on how I overcame challenges and used them as teaching lessons. I also give supportive tips to parents who are raising a young CEO. Some of my younger customers ask me about how I started my business. It gives me so much pleasure watching them be so attentive and hanging onto every word that I say. Hearing about their dreams makes my heart happy. I love the way their faces light up when I tell them how proud I am. Another favorite thing I love about running Goddess Food Factory is having a place for kids to come learn about STEM/STREAM using culinary concepts. They learn how to bake delicious treats and have educational baking fun at the same time.
What does being a leader in STEM/STREAM mean to you?
Being a leader in STEM/STREAM means everything to me. As a keynote speaker, I get to travel all over the United States inspiring and empowering other youth to explore STREAM careers. Additionally, I conduct workshops and provide hands-on discovery experiences for kids to see the magic of science and the beauty of discovery. I love to show them how to apply these skills in real life careers like baking. It makes me proud when I receive letters from kids stating that I helped them become STEM/STREAM leaders, advocates, and entrepreneurs.
We are big fans of the STEAM Squad. What do you enjoy most about being in that awesome community?
“Awesome” is the PERFECT word to describe the STEAM Squad and its members. Each member is unique, and we are all united by our love for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. As for me, I have to add in the “R” for Reading. It’s the foundation of everything and that’s the reasoning behind my creation of STREAM. There’s and old saying, “There is power in numbers.” Therefore, being a member of The STEAM Squad allows for each of us to inspire more people. Collectively, we use our platforms to show other kids, specifically girls that STEM/STEAM/STREAM education and careers are important. We also show that there are various careers that are fun and meaningful. WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.
As a young entrepreneur, what advice do you have for other young people who want to start their own business?
Based on my experience, the three things that I would recommend to a future young mogul before starting their business is to first, identify their passion or their gift. They definitely want to make sure it's something that they love doing and want to do very often. Making sure it's something that they are willing to share with others and something that they know a lot about is a must. They will have to pitch their business to multiple people continuously, so making sure that they’re prepared is vital. Learning as many aspects of their business as possible is also a huge plus. They must remember that’s this is their business and if they don’t know what’s going on, then others may not see the full value and potential of their business.
Secondly, they must secure a good support team of motivators and at least one mentor. Having mentors to go to for advice is valuable. My mentors are Arica Bridges (my mom), Phyllis Williams (my grandma), Casey Kelly (owner of Blended Designs) and Chef Kenna (chef from Hell’s Kitchen Season 15). They love me and truly care about the success of my business. Moreover, I love positive energy around me. It keeps me going and I think better that way. I love when my family and I have power meetings. We generate great ideas and the mood is always right for brainstorming. When things get really hectic for me, having people who can help me create solutions makes everything better. Additionally, everybody loves praise. It makes me feel good when my work is acknowledged, and my team celebrates my successes all the time. It makes me feel good on the inside. So, having a great group of people whose opinion they value and who will uplift them when times get tough, will save them from stressful moments and help them make great business decisions.
Lastly, watch a lot of growth mindset. They will help them learn to think positive thoughts. I love listening to Mr. Mario Armstrong’s Wake Up & Level Up podcast. He’s also the host of the Never Settle Show. He’s my personal favorite because he motivates me while teaching me business strategies. He’s a 2x Emmy winner and very knowledgeable. What I like most about mindset podcast and videos is that the messages have not only changed my way of thinking towards my business, but I don’t let other things bother me as much. I try to learn from my mistakes and focus on the positive portion of the situation. There is a bright side to everything. Think glass half full versus half empty.
Which scientists and/or chefs (modern day and historical) inspire you?
Chef Kenna from Hell’s Kitchen, Season 15 is my mentor and a huge inspiration. She lives on a huge ranch in Tennessee with her daughter, Laila. She encourages me to always put my best foot forward and to do my best at all times. From calling me and making sure that I’m feeling okay to traveling across state lines to attend my events, shows me that I mean a lot to her. I love her so much and I’m super appreciative that she cares about me and my business. Plus, she makes unique desserts which inspires me to create new treats.
What advice do you have for young people who want to get into STEM?
I say, “Go for it and don’t stop.” My mission has always been to inspire and empower kids to learn more about STEM/STREAM education and careers. I use my platform to teach and promote science, technology, reading, engineering, art and mathematics. I encourage other youth to research STEM/STREAM careers and to think about jobs they may want in the future. I challenge them to think what they can start doing now to be prepared for the technology era.
How about people who think they can’t cook? Where’s a good place for them to start?
A great place for anyone to start learning how to cook is to either cook alongside someone who can cook. This will enable them to get hands-on, side by side instructions. Plus, they can ask questions about anything that they don’t understand. Another great resource is YouTube. I provide baking tutorials on my YouTube channel and there are so many really great cooks who provide step by step cooking lessons.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming cookbook?
My upcoming dessert cookbook is a combination of my passion for baking and STEM/STREAM. It will be the first and best educational cookbook ever. It has really cool and unique recipes, baking tips, and STREAM strategies inside. I actually finished writing it about seven months ago, but I haven’t been able to sit still long enough to schedule another photo shoot to capture other treats that I added. So far, I’ve had two cookbook photo shoots, but I’ve created more amazing desserts since then and I want to include them into the cookbook. So, stay tuned and follow my social media accounts to be informed on the release date.
Do you have a favorite recipe to make?
Yes, my Snicker Brownie dessert is my absolute favorite treat to make. Everyone loves them. I’ve even baked them with Mr. Steve Harvey on his talk show and shared them with several celebrities and local patrons. Additionally, I’ve been featured on the cover of magazines and on several blogs.
Do you have any favorite fictional scientist or chef characters in books/movies/other art forms?
I love the way the mouse (chef) in the movie Ratatouille rallied all of the other mice together to make the finest ratatouille ever. The message of teamwork reminds me of how I work well with others and run my business. TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK.
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
If I was a superhero, I would wear a fuchsia pink cape, with a huge gold sequin “S” (for Simone) on the back. The cape would have the ability to turn into an apron with a digital virtual assistant built into it. This would allow me to set timers, research recipes and Skype when I’m rescuing future lil bakers who need help to finish baking a dish. My super hero name would be: Simone the Super ExSTREAM Baker!