Grégoire Jacquet was born in Versailles, France. When he was young, his family moved to the village of Grazay in the Loire Valley. His father spent most of his time away working as a car salesman. A rural upbringing gave Jacquet an appreciation for cooking and food in general. At 14 he went to study cooking at the Maison Familiale et Rurale. After a brief stint at a hotel in the French Alps, Jacquet cooked in Paris for two years. On vacation in the Bay Area, he met Jacky Robert, and with Jacky’s help decided to come and work in the U.S.. He worked at Amelio’s, and at Ritz Carlton hotels in San Francisco, Boston, and Puerto Rico, after which he moved with his wife, Tara, to Berkeley. He opened Grégoire in 2002 with a two-person staff and an ever-changing, local menu. His philosophy is for a simple spot where the chef takes the orders and cooks the food in front of the customers. A second restaurant opened on Piedmont Avenue in 2007. These days, Jacquet says he has found a perfect balance between wanting to please people with his food and being a devoted husband and father of two.
When did you arrive in Berkeley?
The first time I came to Berkeley was in 1989 just after the big earthquake, but I didn’t live here. The first time I moved here was in 1999 after I met my wife, Tara, at the Ritz. We left to live in Puerto Rico and came back in 2001.
What’s your ‘hood?
Monterey Avenue between Hopkins and Posen.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A chef. When I was a kid we used to slaughter pig twice a year and make sausage. We had a huge garden where we had all these vegetables growing, from artichokes to endive, to asparagus, strawberries, pears — we had it all. We had rabbits and chickens. I used to be the one finishing all the food all the time. I loved to eat, so I wanted to be a chef. I wanted to cook. That’s all.
Where and when are you happiest?
With my family. I love weekends when I don’t have to work.
Which living person do you most admire?
My wife. I don’t think I could do her job as well as she does, raising the kids and putting up with me.
What drives you mad?
Bad drivers. I’m a peaceful person, but even talking about bad drivers just drives me berserk. People don’t care for other people, you know. It’s just driving me nuts. Please, just be considerate of others.
If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
I’m going to say, maybe I should be a little tougher. Tara tells me that I’m too forgiving. I’m too nice. I give too many chances too easily.
Who, or what, is the love of your life?
My wife. She would say my phone, but I say my wife.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I have two. Coming to the U.S. at 19 years’ old not speaking English, and opening up Grégoire. Opening up Grégoire was really an unknown. It was a natural progression in my life, but that was crazy.
What three things would you take to a desert island?
My wife Tara, my daughter Elodie, and my son Milo.
What does Berkeley mean to you?
Wow, the center of the world. It’s true! It’s so small and it’s so in-your-face everywhere you go. It’s special.
If you didn’t live in Berkeley, where would you live?
I know my kids need Berkeley, I know my wife needs Berkeley, my in-laws, they’re really permanent in Berkeley. I love Berkeley and I don’t think about another place I would live, really. But, if you take Berkeley off the map, well, I would go back to France, I guess. Somewhere in the country where I can have a farm with horses and pigs, just something really sustainable where I wouldn’t have to go into the world again, like my own little solitary world with my family.
Berkeleyside’s “Snapshot” column, inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, is an occasional series by Pete Rosos in which we take a moment to get to know some of Berkeley’s most interesting people. Rosos is a freelance photographer, husband, and father of two who lives in south Berkeley.
Previous Snapshots: Urban Ore founder Dan Knapp; Jessica Williams, owner of Brushstrokes Studio; Doris Moskowitz, owner, Moe’s Books; songwriter and writer David Berkeley; Heyday Books founder Malcolm Margolin; Angus Powelson, owner of Oceanworks; Arlene Blum, scientist, author, climber, activist; Don Daniels, purveyor of balloons at Paper Plus Outlet; and Bob and Suzan Steinberg, owners of Stonemountain and Daughter.
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