French Chef Behind Brigitte Bistro Finds a New life in Petaluma

Chef Nick Ronan can't wait to share dishes inspired by his boyhood vacations in Southern France, including steak tartare, boeuf Bourguignon and onion soup.

Chef Nick Ronan of the forthcoming Brigitte Bistro has fallen in love with Petaluma.

As the longtime San Francisco restaurateur puts the finishing touches on the airy French cafe he’s planning to open in late March, it’s also clear he’s fallen in love with being a chef again.

Sitting inside the former Wishbone and 3 Cooks Cafe space, Ronan beams when talking about the cafe he’s named for his late mother. Over the past few months, he’s gutted the aged interior and added a small bar, chef’s counter seating, new kitchen appliances, an indoor bathroom and somehow, a baby grand piano, according to his Instagram page.

He’s a bear of a guy who likes to give hugs, and his motto is Love. Food. Wine. Passion. Life. People.

Ronan can’t wait to share dishes inspired by his boyhood vacations in Southern France, including steak tartare, boeuf Bourguignon, steak frites, onion soup and cherry clafoutis. He can’t wait to hug new friends (he’s a hugger) and pour wine again because, for a few years, the chef whose motto is “Love. Food. Wine. Passion. Life. People.” thought he’d lost all of them.

Over the last decade, Ronan headed the kitchens at several well-known restaurants in San Francisco, including Pawn Shop, Bisou and Beso. He wrote a book called “The Kissing Chef” and became a “culinary influencer.”

But things began to devolve both at the restaurants and in his personal life, which were only compounded by the pandemic.

“Things were changing, and people weren’t going out to enjoy a meal anymore. They weren’t going out to have a great life; they were just out to criticize. The sense of community wasn’t there any longer, and I got tired of it. I just didn’t have the joy of life,” he said. So, he took time off to rediscover himself in Marshall.

“I fell in love with nature, fish, vegetables and meat. I started to cook again. I fell in love with the community of Petaluma,” Ronan said. He worked as a private chef for Silicon Valley executives but faced another difficult moment when his mother, Brigitte, died in March 2023.

“I want to keep her soul alive. She was wonderful, and there’s a lot of emotion for me,” he said. Ronan is clear, however, that Brigitte Bistro isn’t a Michelin quest but a neighborhood spot to eat a nice dinner, grab brunch or have a glass of wine and some appetizers. More than 60 wines from Sonoma, Napa and France will be featured.

“This is such a joy. I have found a life here that really connects me here. I’ve found love again,” he said.

Stay tuned for more details when the restaurant opens. Brigitte Bistro is located at 841 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma.