An Interview With Brett Riggle

Brett traded the East Coast for the much warmer Western coast, along with her philosopher husband, a very large and fluffy cat with a small but loyal fan base, and an impressive, ever-growing indoor garden that covers nearly every inch of her desk. She’s a natural planner, enthusiastic problem-solver and highly skilled Googler, which serve her exceptionally well whether she’s finding the best coffee in a new city or doing research for a client. And while she has more interests, hobbies and skills than we can mention, perhaps the most important thing to note about Brett is her genuine love of people. She believes in forming relationships with clients and learning their stories, their challenges and their goals to ultimately create best-in-class experiences for them and develop big picture plans to drive year-over-year success. Brett brings her diverse background and extensive talents to Dine Brands, Bumble Bee and Matter, to name a few.

Brett joined the Bulldog Drummond team as a Brand Strategist a few months ago and we think it’s proper to welcome her with the obligatory series of getting acquainted questions.

Bulldog Drummond: What gets you out of bed every day?
Brett Riggle: In the literal sense, it’s usually my cat, who is super affectionate when it’s time to wake up. Next, it’s drinking nice coffee and enjoying the morning, both of which I’m a big fan of. More generally, it’s usually just excitement and passion for whatever I have coming up or am working on at the moment–whether it’s a presentation for a client, a dinner I’m planning, or a house project for the coming weekend. I’m pretty good about making sure that I have lots of things going on that I really enjoy, and getting myself excited about them in anticipation.

BD: You inspire a lot of people, who inspires you?
BR: I am super lucky in this respect, because I am surrounded by people who inspire me every day. There are too many to list them all, but I’ll name a few that regularly blow my mind for different reasons.

Learning: First is my husband Nick, who is in constant pursuit of his passions, personal development, and forging a path based on his own individuality and creativity, whether in his first career as a professional rollerblader, or now as an academic philosopher. I’ve seen him develop into a beautiful chef and lovingly feed everyone around him, organize and galvanize the academic community around ideas and topics that are widely undervalued, write a fun and brilliant book that has resonated with thousands of people, and, most recently, take up ballet because he wanted to be healthier and more flexible. Everything he does, he does with curiosity and thoughtfulness, not to mention a ton of intelligence.

Doing: My friend Chelsea, who owns the Rose Wine Bar in South Park and is constantly contributing to a positive culture of local, thoughtful food and small business in San Diego, including organizing an amazing annual natural wine festival that’s quickly becoming a cornerstone of the natural wine movement. Chelsea isn’t afraid of a challenge, follows her instincts, puts together beautiful food and experiences that connect the community, is a conscientious and caring boss and business owner, and has a wealth of practical and insightful knowledge on a huge number subjects.

Listening: Although my friend Ben and I only just met in the last year, we immediately shared a deep connection and he’s had a big impact on me. It’s hard to think of many people I’ve met who are better at really listening, understanding, and making others feel heard. He has a deep well of both empathy and open-mindedness, he genuinely considers things from the perspectives of others, and he is accepting and understanding of who they are, flaws and all. He’s definitely inspired me to reflect on how I approach relationships and think about other people.

Playing: My friend Lera is an extraordinary human in the literal sense, and she inspires those around her (me in particular) to live in an extraordinary way. She’s a brilliant cognitive scientist, and somehow in her free time she manages to go for open ocean swims, attend bullfights and lucha libre matches in Tijuana, charter fishing trips in Baja, cater people’s weddings, and serve gorgeous multi-course meals that she cooks herself for groups of smart, interesting people. She’s also someone who will never pass up the option to wear an elaborately themed costume. Is that a lot? Yes. I don’t know how she manages to do it all, and I sometimes wonder if she sleeps, but she treats every moment as an opportunity to make life more beautiful, fun, interesting, silly, delicious and over-the-top in the best way. She’s basically a crusader against boringness. Most of us might not embrace life in the way she does–it’s not easy and not for everyone–but she absolutely inspires me to play more, not take myself so seriously, put in the effort to do and make special things, and be unabashedly over-the-top from time to time.

 BD: Who is the most interesting person you have met?
BR: I don’t think there’s necessarily just one person that stands out. Lots of people are interesting to me in different ways, and I definitely take pleasure in, and make a point to, seek out interesting people. Generally, anyone who has a different experience or perspective than I do, whether it’s what they do professionally or their background, is fascinating to me. Within that, if there is someone who has been particularly dedicated to something, like a sport or travel or some intellectual interest, I always want to know everything. I love hearing people’s stories.

BD: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
BR: Probably something about practicing meditation and mindfulness. I haven’t done a good job of taking that advice, but I am pretty confident it would be good for me. I am a little concerned that my brain is always half scrambled because of my relationship with my phone and the generally frenzied nature of modern life. It’s definitely something that I think is important and that I’d like to figure out sooner rather than later.

BD: What are your hobbies/interests?
BR: I am a pretty active person and usually have a lot going on. I am not very good at relaxing. I really enjoy running and hiking, so I try to do that regularly. They’re both great exercise, and a nice way to be outside and catch up with friends. And I also love boxing to stay in shape and clear my head.

On the more creative side, I cycle through a variety of projects depending on what I have going on–ceramics, sewing, block printing, illustration, knitting…usually tied to some sort of event or gift, but occasionally just because I have the urge. I really love art and interior design, so I spend a fair amount of time seeking out interesting pieces and continuing to set up my house how I’d like it. I also really love plants, and have a fairly large and undeveloped yard, so I’m trying to figure out the whole landscaping in Southern California thing.

Mostly though, I spend most of my time and effort on–and am happiest when–bringing people together over food. Friendships and relationships are super important to me, and I get a lot of my energy and inspiration from spending time with the people who are important to me. My husband and I both really love to cook, so most weeks we end up having friends over for some version of a dinner party (big or small). We love learning and experiencing through food, so it’s a mix of getting excited about something special that’s in season or fresh at the market, trying to recreate something that we loved when dining out, or exploring one of our many cookbooks. Recently, I’ve been working on a more structured version of this with my friend Chelsea, where we put together curated suppers for our food and creative community in San Diego, including a small pop-up art installation.

When I’m finally ready for some couch time, I do keep up on film and television, and I love to read. But as you can imagine from all of my previous answers, I don’t make nearly enough time for either. I feel totally overwhelmed by my backlogs on both counts.

BD: Favorite quote:
BR: I’ve never been a quote collector, so I don’t have a favorite on-hand. That said, I was looking up Emerson quotes for a different reason last week, and came across a couple that really resonate with me. 

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

Although they speak to slightly different ideas, they both feel very relevant to how I operate and what I believe; to accomplish anything, you have to show up, actually give a shit, and put the energy into the world that you want to get back.

BD: What you’re reading:
BR: I just finished Barbarian Days by William Finnegan, which I loved. It’s a beautifully written memoir about his relationship with surfing, set throughout Southern California, Hawaii, Bali, Indonesia, Australia, San Francisco, and New York. It definitely made me want to try surfing more (I bought a board at a yard sale but haven’t gone out very much) and gave me a serious case of wanderlust. Currently I’m reading a couple of books. The first is HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything by Dov Seidman, which is about the importance of principled culture in business and is super relevant to our practice here at Bulldog. The other is Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, which is a World War II era noir thriller, set in Brooklyn. I really enjoy historical fiction, and I lived in Brooklyn for seven years, so that one’s a lot of fun.

BD: Blogs/newsletters you read every day/turn to for inspiration:
BR: I haven’t been reading too many blogs lately, but I love visiting It’s a really great aggregator of longform journalism pieces, both new and vintage. They pull together all of the best work that’s come out recently, as well as digging up important or relevant pieces from the archives that relate to current events or news stories. It covers every topic you can imagine, and I really love that format for a deep dive into something I want to learn more about.

BD: Best place in San Diego to eat?
BR: That’s a super hard one for me to answer! I am generally bad at picking favorites and it totally depends on what you’re in the mood for. Best chilaquiles? El Carrito in Barrio Logan. I love Café Calabria and Tribute for pizza. The Rose for brunch and natural wine; Cucina Urbana for Italian (and also wine); Awash for Ethiopian; Pomegranate for Russian comfort food; Crack Shack for fried chicken; City Tacos or Salud for tacos (although I really loved the now-closed Tacos Perla); Royale for a burger (although there are many good options). That is probably a non-answer, but it’s also a very Brett answer–I am more of a curated list-maker than someone who has a singular preference for anything. Alternate answer is either at our house or a friend’s house for a dinner party; all of our friends really love food and more and more, from an experience perspective, that is my favorite way to share a meal.

BD: How do you define uncommon sense?
BR: Trusting your own authenticity, and not muddying your instincts with all the noise.

BD: What are three Uncommon Sense principles you live by (personally and professionally)?

  • Live with real enthusiasm
  • Fight for what you believe in, even if it’s hard
  • Details matter

author —
categories —