Culinary Career Night

A Huge Success!

20181129_181126_1.jpgA number of new faces joined us at Teen Services on Thursday, November 29th for a special evening with two of Sonoma’s culinary stars: Sondra Bernstein (the girl and the fig) and Nima Sherpa (Sonoma Grille). Both had interesting journeys to share and advice to offer to the young adults who came to learn a bit more about the culinary field.

20181129_182333_1_1.jpgSondra had graduated from a four-year college on the East Coast and was sure she was going to be an artist until she took her first job as a waitress and loved it. “I was young and I felt like I was going to a party every day.” But she also found that she needed to learn a lot more if this was going to be her career. She went back to school for a year to focus on the skills she needed and then began her culinary journey. After 4 years, she had moved up from waitress to Director of Operations and decided that “if she was going to work this hard, she was going to do this myself” and opened her first restaurant.

In contrast, Nima came from Nepal. He started working at a very early age as a dishwasher, helping his family whenever he was not in school. His first big opportunity came when he got a job with a company providing guiding services to tourists who came to Nepal to climb the mountains. He helped to set up camp and eventually did all of the prep and cooking at the high-altitude camps. After a short visit to the U.S., Nima returned to Nepal to open a small hotel and restaurant, which they later sold and moved to California and found Sonoma. His first job here was as a busboy at Piatti’s.

20181129_181155.jpgBoth agreed that the key to their success was hard work – “owning your own business is a 24/7 job” but it is also great fun. Each was grateful to those who helped them along the way. In Nima’s case, he was lucky to have Sondra as a mentor. Both consider their employees as part of their extended families. Sondra also mentioned the numerous opportunities in the culinary field – not only in the position held but where you are working -- hospitals, schools, Google, cruise ships – they all have their own culinary staff.

During the Q&A, one of the questions was: what are you looking for in an employee? Both Sondra and Nima emphasized:

  • Willingness to learn and work
  • Dependability – you are part of a team and so others are relying on you
  • Honesty

And the closing simple advice: “The nicer you are – the more accommodating you are, the more money you will make.”

20181129_193008.jpgFollowing their presentations, attendees had an opportunity for one-on-one conversations and rumor has it that one of the young women is already a new employee of Sondra's!


This is the first of a series of Career Nights at Teen Services Sonoma. Each month, professionals will be invited to share their personal journeys and respond to questions about their particular career. We will be focusing on technology, the health industry, and aviation over the next few months.