Before the girl & the fig became a major icon in California’s Sonoma County, it was a start-up venture by Sondra Bernstein, who handed off the newly inaugurated kitchen to John Toulze. Working his way up from sous chef and floor manager to chef de cuisine, Toulze followed the fig’s philosophy of “country food with a French passion” and had a major hand in growing the company to what it is today: a multi-branch business that offers fine-dining, catering, a cookbook, and a gourmet food line.
Presently executive chef and chief of operations—in addition to equity owner of the company’s three restaurants—Toulze was instrumental in the original fig’s move from Glen Ellen to Sonoma, as well as in opening the fig café & winebar and Italian restaurant Estate. The Northern California-native also played a key role in developing the girl & the fig’s “Wine Country Fig Food” product line, and he participated heavily in developing recipes for the girl & the fig Cookbook published by Simon & Schuster in April 2004.
A self-taught charcutier, Toulze is also credited for incorporating 7 to 11 different types of homemade charcuterie into his restaurants’ menus, including sopressata, lonzo, lardo, pancetta, rosette de Lyon, and chorizo. The executive chef began a career in cooking and wine sales at Sonoma’s Viansa Winery and Marketplace before coming to the girl & the fig.