The girl & the fig is known as a Sonoma staple, with tourists traveling from across the globe to taste the inventive French country fare and fine wines served there. Aside from the plaza restaurant, owner Sondra Bernstein has become a familiar face around town through her catering business, pop up ramen nights at Suite D, and the fig rig food truck. I was lucky enough to sit down with Sondra to recap her experiences throughout the wine country fires.
As Sondra began describing the events of the past few weeks, she said "everything is melting together- it has felt like one really long day." It would probably to be fair to assume that many Sonoma residents would echo her sentiments- especially those as involved in relief efforts as extensively as Sondra was. If you haven't already heard about her involvement, Sondra generously opened up the doors of her events space Suite D to serve as the headquarters of organizing food distribution during the disaster. She expressed extreme gratitude that she had a purposeful focus during such a turbulent time, especially given how little control over the situation any residents had.
Sondra jumped into relief efforts as soon as disaster hit. She started out by cooking food and driving around town trying to deliver it, but again and again was met with the response that the firehouses and roadblocks were well fed- there was even too much food being dropped off. So, when her business partner John heard about the operation out of The Red Grape, he sent Sondra their way. After joining forces with Tony Moll and JJ Abodeely, the distribution of food became streamlined. Restaurants and grocery stores started bringing them food out of their walk ins so that it would not go to waste. Whole Foods Market, Nugget Market, Glen Ellen Star, The Red Grape, and of course the girl & the fig and the Fig Cafe were just a few of the many businesses to donate food to the cause.
As the weeks went on, the need grew and so did the team at Suite D. Chefs from across Sonoma and Napa Valleys came to help prep food or cooked in their own kitchens and brought the food to Suite D to be distributed. Sondra's team, along with the Rotary of Sonoma, wanted to get ahead of the need, and their organizational efforts were key in efficient, waste-less delivery and distribution of the immense amounts of resources thrown their way. By Sondra's estimates, they distributed between 1800 and 2000 meals a day. She said, "Rotary was amazing in getting volunteers to deliver food- they would put the word out and people would just show up." Word is that firemen and first responders that spent time in Sonoma over the last couple of weeks are calling these incidents the "10 lb fire" because they were so well fed while they were here.
As Sondra and her team at the girl & the fig move forward, they are focusing on rebuilding from within. Their primary focus is making sure all of their 250+ employees are taken care of, and are working hard to get things back up to speed. The girl & the fig is already open for business, and the Fig Cafe should follow shortly behind. Sondra has taken a big step back to look at the big picture effects of these fires on undocumented workers, unemployment and taxes, and holding charities accountable to their promises. She feels the most help will be needed again in a couple months, around the holidays as people start the rebuilding process. Sondra, of course, intends to help in any way she is able. But in the mean time, she would like to extend an invitation to all of you to come in and dine at the girl & the fig! After all of the contributions Sondra and many other local business owners have made over the last few weeks they would be very appreciative of your returned support.