It's A Woman's World: Jodi Bernard, Fortina Pizza's Director of Operations

Stephanie Webster

Fairfield County is full of trailblazing women, particularly in the culinary world. Which is why, with 2018 being proclaimed the Year of the Woman, we felt compelled to honor the pioneers among us.  

Our series, “It’s A Woman’s World’ is devoted to Fairfield County female influencers who’ve forged their own paths, often in food-related fields long dominated by men.

Whether farming the land, bringing healthy food to the masses, feeding an entrepreneurial spirit or injecting feminism with food, these groundbreaking ladies have set a new definition of women’s work, creating new paths and setting examples for those who follow. 

How'd they do it? Read on. This week, we feature Jodi Bernard, Director of Operations at Fortina Pizza. Stay tuned to see who’s next. And feel free to send suggestions for your candidates to

Jodi Bernard, Director of Operations at Fortina Pizza

Why She’s A Pioneer:

I am currently the Director of Operations for the Fortina restaurant group, and that is quite a distance from where I started my professional life.  

After college I worked in the financial industry for 10 years.   I quite literally woke up one day and decided that I had no heart or soul or passion in or for that business.

I loved to cook and so decided on a whim to enroll in culinary school.  From the first class, when I found out that you can actually spend an entire week learning about and cooking just eggs, I was amazed and enthralled, and it was a done deal that I needed to be a chef.

I don’t know if coming to a screeching halt professionally, dropping 10 years of experience, and losing 70% of my income at the age of 30 makes me a pioneer or not, but it was certainly an interesting journey

After working in restaurant kitchens for 15 years, including a stint as sous chef at The Inn at Little Washington, I got a call from Christian Petroni and John Nealon, my friends and colleagues from my days with the Barcelona restaurant group, who were, along with their partner Rob Krauss about to open their new restaurant Fortina.  So, as I like to say – 5 years ago I came in to help them open for a few weeks.

I am still here 5 years later because I believed then and still do that what they started with this restaurant group is truly pioneering, and I have been able to develop and grow with them.  have been fortunate to use the platform of this young, dynamic and creative enterprise to continually explore new ways of approaching restaurant operations and managing people.

On being a woman in a man’s world (2 man’s worlds really):

Realizing that I may prejudice the case of women in various professional environments, I must say that frankly I deal with being a woman in a man’s world by ignoring it.

If I encountered different treatment because of being a woman (which I assume probably happened along the way) I simply did not notice.  

My focus was always on just making myself better.  I look at all challenges and/or barriers the same.  So, facing any sort of bias would have fallen in the same category for me as becoming better at digging out a kitchen that’s in the weeds, or making a braised rabbit leg on the fly, or putting a soufflé on the dessert menu.  All challenging, but none insurmountable.  

Become better, smarter, more skilled, and rise above the barrier or the challenge (there were a few male line cooks whose backs I climbed over to become a sous chef or an executive chef).

I seldom notice when I am the only woman in the room or in a kitchen or in any professional environment.

What’s next:

Depends… hey boys, where’s the next Fortina opening?

Professionally and personally I constantly look for diversity, advancement and innovation.  So, whether it’s about finding a better way to inspire restaurant managers to feel a proprietary sense of responsibility for their restaurant, or about renovating the vacation home that my husband and I just bought in Portugal, I am constantly trying to go to new places and see new things and meet new people.