the girl & the fig Announce Leadership Changes, founder Sondra Bernstein takes new role

In 1997, Sondra Bernstein opened the doors to the first girl & the fig restaurant, showcasing her love of locally grown ingredients and her passion for French food. She named her restaurant for the fruit that symbolizes passion: the fig.
After spending over 25 years dedicated to the hospitality business,
the acclaimed Chef and entrepreneur, has officially taken a step back from all operations in her role as Managing Partner/Marketing Director of her the girl and fig businesses. John Toulze, current President, has taken over the reins as the new Managing Partner and will continue to handle all day to day operations of the company, continuing Sondra's legacy. And what a legacy in the hospitality and philanthropy world she leaves!


Sondra started the company in 1997 in Glen Ellen, CA with the help of two of her brothers and a small staff of 17 employees, (among them was John Toulze). The quirky restaurant with mismatched chairs, flight glasses and flatware, handmade plates by her friends, a wine list with Rhone-Alone wines that no one heard of and the bounty from farms nearby to shine on the menu, put the restaurant on the list of “must-visit” when in Sonoma County. During the past 23 years, the company grew to 240 staff members (pre-COVID) with additional restaurants, a food truck, a country store with cottages, a catering company with an event space as well as a food product line and two cookbooks.

















Sondra is responsible for the success of of the nationally acclaimed restaurant the girl and fig in Sonoma (one of the first restaurants I visited when I arrived in wine country almost 3 years ago. It quickly became my go-to spot when in downtown Sonoma.), the fig café & winebar in Glen Ellen. the girl & the fig CATERS! launched in early 2007 and provides catering and special events in wine country. Sondra’s cookbook, the girl & the fig COOKBOOK was published by Simon & Schuster in 2004 and Plats du Jour: French Dinners Made Easy Cookbook was released in 2011. Her product line, FIGfood can be found in specialty food shops and wineries throughout the country. "Wildly figalicious, limited production and curated goods from your friends at the girl & the fig in Sonoma. Open all night long for your shopping pleasure here," its website playfully reads. As if all of this isn't enough, entrepreneur Sondra publishes a newspaper called #figchronicles a couple times a year and is co-host on The Bite Goes On podcast.


With a passion for food and wine, Sondra (she prefers not to be called Chef, she told me when we met in person the first time at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco) began her culinary journey in her hometown of Philadelphia. She states (via linkedin) that her move to Sonoma County was inevitable. Having restaurants in Sonoma County is a tribute to the efforts of the farmers, ranchers, cheese-makers and, of course, grape growers & vintners in this bountiful landscape and will continue in an advisor position.
Sondra Bernstein said: “As founder of the girl and fig, I am so proud of the incredible company that we have built and that continues to drive hospitality in the Sonoma Valley for over 23 years. It has been a delicious, wild ride and I have been blessed with a job that for a long time did not feel like a job, just a way of life and making a contribution to our community.”

(Seen Left Sondra Bernstein and's Patti Neumann in 2019 (pre COVID at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show)

Sondra will continue to manage the Sonoma FIG Foundation, her nonprofit organization dedicated to helping aspiring entrepreneurs in farming, food & wine to realize their dreams as well as managing the philanthropic goals for the company. She set her sights on a desire to feed, entertain, and make people happy by showing them a good time and serving them delicious food, prepared well, in a fun environment. What transpired over the following nineteen years became something much larger; a company with over 200 employees, two restaurants, a catering company, a food truck, two books, a product line and a pop-up space.These all started as ideas and there were many more; some worked, some didn't - but you must start somewhere. The Sonoma FIG Foundation Fund wants to help make that start possible, her foundation websites explains.

Sondra notes that she could have never combined her creative passions into a business without a strong team and the comforting support of guests from both Sonoma and around the world. “This change has been in the works since prior to the pandemic and plans that were being made needed to be put on hold. Now that there seems to be a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, it seems that this is the right time for a personal change. Not only do I look forward to my next chapter (whatever that may be) but also can’t wait to visit family and friends, eat and drink in restaurants and finally get out of my house in the daylight hours.”

As she said prior to the company’s twenty year anniversary, “We continue to learn something every day. Nothing stays the same; we are in constant motion.” She finally acknowledges it’s time to slow down. Stay in touch with Sondra at Personally, I think there will continue to be more successes and ideas that come to fru...FIGition in the future. Cheers Chef Sondra (there, I said it!)


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