SONOMA (CBS SF) – John Toulze is a native of Northern California from a third generation French family. Cooking was, and continues to be, a strong passion in his family life. John started his career in hospitality at Viansa Winery in Sonoma in 1994. After several years of cooking and wine sales, John left Viansa winery to help Sondra Bernstein open the girl & the fig restaurant in Glen Ellen. At the girl & the fig, John’s role was varied as he divided his work between the sous chef and floor manager. During the second year of business, John took over the kitchen as the Chef de Cuisine and continued to define the restaurant’s “country food with a French passion” focus.
Nineteen years later, John is not only the Executive Chef but also the Managing Partner. John has been critical to the opening of the original restaurants and every project that followed. He has also had an important role in developing the girl & the fig’s FIG FOOD product line and has developed the recipes for both the girl & the fig Cookbooks. The restaurants’ farm to table experience then grew from the herb gardens at the restaurant to working an organically farmed culinary garden also under John’s care. John believes his immersion in “the farm project,” as they call it, has taught him to be a better chef, giving him an intimate understanding of what seasonality really means.
John received a Rising Star Chef award in June 2009.
His latest venture with business partner Sondra Bernstein is a restaurant on wheels “The Fig Rig“. I caught up with John and Sondra recently at “Broadway Under The Stars” in Sonoma where they debuted their rig. In tight quarters Chef John and Sondra served theatre goers tasty rad into the evening. Their “Fried Green Tomato Burger” stole the show.
See where you can find The Fig Rig via their website. And be sure to catch upcoming shows by Transcendence Theatre Company in Jack London State Park, Sonoma soon.
Chef John Toulze’s
Fried Green Tomatoes B.L.T.
- 6 Brioche Buns
- 2 #’s thickly sliced bacon
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 head romaine – sliced thinly
- 1 cup black pepper aioli
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 garlic clove, pressed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 green tomatoes
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup panko
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup grated Vella Dry Jack cheese (can substitute Parmesan)
- 1½ teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brown sugar and black pepper in a large bowl. Place sliced
bacon in bowl and coat evenly with mixture. Place on a cooking rack and cook in oven until browned and bacon is crisp (18-22 minutes)
Black Pepper Aioli:
Whisk egg, garlic and salt in a bowl with 1 teaspoon water. Whisking constantly, slowly add olive oil in to form an emulsion. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.
Slice off ends of tomatoes and portion remainder into three slices per tomato. Place the buttermilk in a shallow bowl. In another bowl mix together panko, cornmeal, flour, cheese, chipotle, paprika, salt & pepper. In a heavy bottom skillet, heat oil up to 350 degrees. Place green tomatoes in buttermilk, allow excess buttermilk to fall free, and toss in flour mixture.
Place tomatoes in oil and cook for 1 minute on each side, remove and season lightly with salt & pepper.
Toast buns, and place a small spoonful of aioli on the bottom. Take the remaining aioli and mix with the romaine. Place the romaine on the bottom of the buns, top with 2 slices of fried green tomatoes, then bacon, then bun top.
For more on The Fig Rig, visit www.thefigrig.com