It’s funny how life works. One second, you can be living in your hometown working a standard job, and the next, moving across the world to pursue your dream. That’s exactly how things went down for Gregoire Jacquet. Jacquet is currently owner of Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley, California and before he started his business, his life was very different.
Some people are born knowing what they want to do. For Jacquet, he knew he wanted to cook. Growing up in a small village in France with only 85 people, Jacquet started cooking with friends at the young age of 14. He attended a cooking boarding school for 3 years to train for a career in cooking. By the time he was 18, he received an offer to work in Downtown Paris as a chef, where he ended up meeting many Americans that inspired him to visit the United States for the very first time. Jacquet loved the country so much, he decided to stay and ended up working as a chef for over 12 years for various high-end restaurants, including The Ritz Carlton. After his wife got pregnant, Jacquet felt motivated to finally take the leap to start his first family-owned business.
Jacquet knew he didn’t want to work for anyone anymore and wanted to be his own boss. After over a decade of working in fine dining, he decided to go the opposite route and open up a small local take-out business. Being a chef at heart, he knew he didn’t want to focus too much on the front of house, and would rather build a kitchen where people can come in and out for take-out service. The one thing he loved about quick service was it was a way for customers to take out food and eat with their families at home - in a way, bring people together over food. With a smaller local business, Jacquet knew he’d also have the opportunity to personally meet every customer and build relationships, which was extremely important for him. After Jacquet had his vision and knew the type of business he wanted, he leaned on his wife and in-laws to turn his dream into a reality.
Jacquet and his wife found a great location in Berkeley to open their first location. The space was completely rundown when they first had it, but together they completely remodeled it. Jacquet and his wife rebuilt the place on their own and got their hands dirty to make it a restaurant they could be proud of. The biggest challenge and frustration for Jacquet was the legality and paperwork that went behind starting his first business. There were numerous regulations and requirements which became timely and costly, but Jacquet understood he had to be patient and persistent. Within 5 months of planning and staying focused, Jacquet was finally ready to open his restaurant doors.
Jacquet couldn’t have reached the success of where he is now without his family. His wife and in-laws were huge supporters and believed in Gregoire’s vision. When Gregoire’s Restaurant first opened, his entire in-law family would sit in during lunch and dinner times just to show support and help make the restaurant look busy to build traffic. Jacquet’s wife, in particular, was with him the entire way; during his late nights working, she showed constant support and understanding. She even reached out to the editor of the East Bay Express local newspaper to spotlight the restaurant. After the article, Takeout of the Gods, was published raving about Gregoire’s Restaurant, customers came flooding in. The coverage was a complete gamechanger, putting Jacquet and his restaurant on the map. Jacquet couldn’t have asked for a better team to lean on during his journey.
Jacquet can safely say he has grown tremendously both professionally and personally since opening up his first business. He was forced to the learn the ins and outs of owning a business and found the right work/life balance after pushing himself so hard for years. Before his wife would call him Mr. No when he first started his business because he always responded, “No, I have to work.” But now, she calls him Mr. Yes because his years of hard work paid off allowing him to better prioritize and bring on additional help. Now that Jacquet’s two children are older too, he is able to focus on expanding his business to multiple locations.
Jacquet wanted to give some words of advice for first-time business owners and shared, “It’s difficult to manage an entire restaurant. There are many components that make restaurant a success, so make sure you can manage every component before opening a business. It’s not just about looking pretty - you need to know how to manage the front and back of the house atop of your employees. If one component doesn’t work, you’ll be prone to failure.” Jacquet has made leaps and bounds to get to where he is now - from a small village in France to a booming business in California.
Make sure the next time you’re in the Bay Area, to check out Gregoire’s Restaurant and give a friendly hello to Jacquet.