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 new 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, our focus turns to Sarah Bouissou, Owner/Events Coordinator, Bernard's/Sarah's Wine Bar/Sarah Bouissou Catering. Have a suggestion on someone you’d like to see featured? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Bouissou, Owner/Events Coordinator, Bernard's, Sarah's Wine Bar & Sarah Bouissou Catering
Why She’s A Pioneer: She was the first female chef at Claude’s Ho Ho Kus Inn & Tavern in New Jersey as well as at New York’s Le Cirque back in the day (mid to late 80s) proving her culinary mettle. It was at the latter where she met her now husband, Bernard. He would go on to Manhattan’s Le Cigne, Tavern on the Green and Rye’s La Panetière. She went on to work for Thomas Keller at Rakel and then started her own catering business in 1991 (when pregnant with their first child), which she continues to run to this day
Their dream, however, was always to own their own restaurant in a vibrant community where they could do it all – have a big family, run their establishment and be fully ingrained in the neighborhood. In 2000 they did just that opening Bernard’s restaurant in an old 1874 inn in Ridgefield and working side by side in the kitchen. In 2008 they opened Sarah’s Wine Bar on the second floor which offers a more casual setting.
This multi-tasking mama leads the front of the house, handles events and still runs her catering business -- and did this while raising four daughters, now grown. Many in the area know her for her upbeat personality, her flawless events (and cooking) and for her philanthropy – she’s consistently donating to area charities and is especially devoted to the arts. Says Bouissou: “When you give to the community, they give to you.”
On Being A Woman In A ‘Man’s World:” Bouissou grew up with four older brothers, meaning most of her world was male. “It’s never really meant anything to me,” she says. “My goal was always to make it in a world I wanted to be in; it just happened to be filled with men.” She admits, however, to certain challenges. “For one,” she says. “You couldn’t’ find cooking shoes or chef jackets or pants – because there weren’t any created for women back when I started. And, you needed to work harder and for less money.
“You also got hit on a lot. But I always said I was engaged so that pretty much ended that.”
Because she so wanted to be a chef – and work in a French kitchen where the culture was more male oriented – she says she worked hard to be the best. The irony now, she says, is that the majority of the cooks at Bernard’s are women. “We’ve just found they’re better multi-taskers.”
What’s Next: Working with different local artists --- their work is displayed at Sarah’s Wine Bar and changes every three months– as well as finding new musicians for the bar’s entertainment. “We’re all about keeping things fresh and fun,” she says. That extends to the menu where the seasons often dictate what’s for dinner.