Meet the Chef: Sondra Bernstein of girl and the fig
Sondra Bernstein is best known for helping put Sonoma County on the big league culinary map 20 years ago, when she opened her the girl & the fig’s restaurant. Immediately, her California-French cuisine was a huge hit, garnering national attention for elegant dishes like local fig salad tossed with local goat cheese.
But as the 9th Annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week ramps up for March 2 through 11, 2018, she’s showcasing another restaurant, too — the fig cafe & winebar in the Glen Ellen eatery space that actually launched the very first girl & the fig concept back in 1997.
Today, Bernstein boasts many other jewels in her culinary crown, owning and operating other downtown Sonoma businesses including Suite D catering company and pop-up restaurant, the Fig Rig food truck, and The Rhone Room wine bar in front of her produce farm on the southern edge of town.
She’s also in the planning stages for a new ramen restaurant, Noodle Spring, slated for a retail center being considered for the Lanning Building site along Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs.
At 57, Bernstein is hardly kicking into retirement. In fact, she is often seen working at her restaurants, handing out food, and pouring wine at special events and fundraisers. She greets guests who have become friends at her girl & the fig in the historic, 1879 Sonoma Hotel on Spain Street and First Street West, and helps serve steaming bowls of noodles at her winter Wednesday ramen pop-ups at Suite D.
And in between, she finds time to produce her own line of “fig food” and cosmetics, like shrubs, vinaigrettes, fig cakes, spiced nuts, salted fig caramels, jams, Tuscan fig body lotion, goat milk soap, and her private label girl & the fig wines.
It’s quite the success story for someone who got her start working in the Italian deli at Viansa Winery in Sonoma-Carneros in 1993. That’s where she met her company’s now managing partner and executive chef John Toulze at Viansa, who helped her open the first girl & the fig in a 42-seat former pizza parlor in Glen Ellen.
The spot was so popular that three years later, Bernstein expanded to the hotel where the current girl & the fig packs in crowds today.
the girl & the fig, 110 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-3634
fig cafe & winebar, 13690 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-938-2130