Business Beat - Rock star Napa chef flies over the mountain to Sonoma Valley
By Paul Goguen
Good things in the world of small businesses continue to happen at the revitalized Jack London Village in Glen Ellen, with the exciting addition of Songbird Parlour, an event space recently opened by chef Lauren Kershner.
The elegantly decorated space will pair nicely with her already established Goodness Gracious catering company. I sat down with Kershner on some comfy couches in a nook in the cavernous space that used to house Olive & Vine, and asked how she got started in this volatile business.
“I went to culinary school when I was 19 — so young — up in Portland, Oregon. I got into food because I grew up on a farm in Mendocino,” Kershner said. “We moved there from Phoenix when I was a teenager, so it was like a whole new thing. I really learned how to grow food and work with it very organically and I sold produce to the little local café. That’s how I got my first job and I’ve been in restaurants ever since.”
There are only so many places to train as a great chef on this planet and Kershner found one.
“I moved back to the Napa area because that was just the place to go to be a rock star chef and learn,” she said. “I worked at quite a few restaurants over there, starting at Calistoga Ranch. I was at Morimoto and helped open that place up; helped open La Condesa; I was a sous chef at Cook St. Helena, so I kind of started working my way up.
“Then I moved over to Sonoma Valley to work as the head chef at Beltane Ranch, which is also here in
Glen Ellen. It’s kind of nice to be back in Glen Ellen, and I feel that working there was where I really found my voice as a chef and learned to love this land and creating food that’s very farm-to-table. Even in the morning for breakfast, I’d go pick the best vegetables and fruits that we would serve.”
Kershner knew she wanted to start something of her own while working in the Sonoma Valley at Beltane.
“I started Goodness Gracious catering while I was there, and we’re almost five years old now. We do small, intimate, private parties, very farm-to-table, as well with [goods] from a lot of local vendors. It’s really important to us that we bring the local culture to our customers. We do more than cooking, is what I say,” Kershner explained.
With a successful catering business established, an event space seemed like the natural progression of the business.
“We moved in here in September of 2020, during the pandemic,” Kershner said. “For some reason I thought that was a good idea. So far it is, but at the time I just rolled with it. We use the kitchen now for the catering company, and we started remodeling the dining room so we can do our own events or people can rent it for events. We’ve been fairly successful, I’d say, for how young we are as a business. We just got to the point where we had the opportunity to do something like this, so we took it.”
Songbird Parlour is located in Suite 3 in the Village, at 14301 Arnold Dr. in Glen Ellen. The website is www.songbirdparlour.com.