Established in 2012 by Ari Weiswasser and his wife Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser, Glen Ellen Star specializes in wood-fired cooking methods that bring out the unique flavors of the restaurant's creative menu items. Known as one of the best dining experiences in Sonoma County, we were excited to chat with Ari about his journey as a restaurant owner in Wine Country.
Prior to his years at the CIA in New York City, Ari lived in Colorado, where he obtained his business degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. After spending 8 years in and out of New York City, he decided to move from the bustling streets of New York City, to Wine Country. He had no idea of the successful restaurant that would come to be, but was drawn to the produce and product availability in the area. He began his new journey with a job at Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, but after two years, decided to pursue his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant. With his wife's family's business being located in Glen Ellen, the couple decided to open up a restaurant in the quiet town.
When he first moved to California, he knew that Napa and Yountville were hotspots, but had little knowledge of Sonoma and the surrounding areas. He says that he believes the success of the restaurant has not only hinged on the amazing product available, but also the passion of his staff.
"The chefs are cooking, plating, and feeding the guests, so the attention to detail and desire to do things the right way has been innate since day one."
The restaurant's open-kitchen concept allows the chefs to perform almost as if on stage, which creates an environment for the highest level of service and quality. In addition, weekly menu planning meetings inspired by local farmer's market produce spark creativity and collaboration.
"Our ability to grow, and our success, is a collaboration of the incredible staff of the restaurant."
As the business has grown, Ari developed a new leg of the restaurant: Stellar Catering. Together, he and chef Bruce Riezenman began Stellar catering as a way to serve more guests off-site. Serving family-style wood fired meals, Stellar catering is, "perfect for the occasion where the formality or cost of a plated meal isn’t the right feel." While Glen Ellen Star can accommodate roughly 70 guests on a nightly basis, Stellar can serve anywhere up to 1000.
Throughout the month of September, Glen Ellen Star will be donating all corkage fees to Jack London State Park. Additionally, Wednesday nights are neighborhood nights at the restaurant, where you can enjoy complimentary corkage and a $30 two-course meal prepared with Sonoma-grown ingredients from surrounding farmer's markets.