Snapshot: Grégoire Jacquet, owner of Grégoire Restaurant

Grégoire Jacquet: finds it hard to think of anywhere he would rather live than Berkeley. Photo: Pete Rosos

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.

Jacquet at the grill: “I loved to eat, so I wanted to be a chef. I wanted to cook.” Photo: Pete Rosos

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 KnappJessica Williams, owner of Brushstrokes Studio; Doris Moskowitz, owner, Moe’s Books; songwriter and writer David Berkeley; Heyday Books founder Malcolm MargolinAngus 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. 

Let us know in the Comments who you would like to see featured here.

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  • Neil

    Interesting interview.

  • TizziLish

    I often see interviews include “what would you take to a desert island?”  .. don’t the writers really mean to say deserted island? are there islands comprised primarily of dry desert, doesn’t desert imply dryness while islands are surrounded by water, yes?

  • TizziLish

    Gregoire sounds like a very happy man, living a very happy life. I enjoyed reading his repeated affirmations of deep love for wife and family.

  • Guest

  • savingracesarah

    I met the ebullient Grégoire shortly after opening his miniature restaurant on Cedar. I am pleased to read he has remained true to his nature after expanding and becoming a North Berkeley fixture. Bravo for his kindness to “tous les chiens” that visit his shop. My Lucy knows (nose) his place within a city block radius and runs to collect her treat at the window! 

  • what is Gregoire thinking creating a seating area in the front yard of the residential building he occupies. No wonder they can’t rent that apartment above. The sign has been up for months. 

  • berkeley resident

    Some people like living above restaurants that serve delicious food.  It is one of the best parts of living in urban areas!

  • Guest

    Have you walked by there?  The new seating area isn’t in front of the restaurant, it’s right in front of the first-floor apartment that’s for rent.  If you lived there, you’d have a picnic table right outside your living room window, with Cal undergrads on first dates awkwardly sharing potato puffs less than two feet away from you.  

  • N Berkeley Resident

    The patio is terrfic, Berkeley needs more outdoor eating spots that combine our great food and climate. It is a shame that the North Berkeley outdoor restaurant seating / public square at Shattuck/Vine/Rose has stalled…cudos to Gregoire to put the patio together in partnership with the property owner.

    If it isn’t your cup of tea then don’t rent the apartment or move to the ‘burbs!

  • Guest

    If M. Jacquet and the owner of the building can reach an agreement, it’s no skin off my nose…but if the Shattuck/Vine/Rose public square, i.e., People’s Park North had gone through, you’d be too busy planning your move to Walnut Creek to comment here.

  • N Berkeley Resident

    If we follow that logic perhaps we should close Live Oak Park lest it become “peoples park north”

    There are plenty of bright people in Berkeley I am sure someone could figure out how to add outdoor seating / community space at Shattuck/Vine without creating a public nuisance certainly the farmers market and food trucks have been a success

  • Guest

    Live Oak Park has not become a problem area, because there isn’t enough in the immediate area to attract a large number of street people.  Specifically, there’s no steady stream of foot traffic — the people who use the park recreationally sit down, eat their hamburgers, and leave.  They’re very slim pickins for the professional panhandler.  Despite this, there are still some shady characters who use Live Oak Park as a bedroom. 

    The Farmer’s Market and Off the Grid don’t create public nuisances because they’re once-a-week events that only last a few hours, and there are people there whose job it is who keep an eye on things. 

    Outdoor seating/community space at Shattuck and Vine would create several of right conditions for the chronically homeless to move in: a steady supply of people to panhandle, and a comfortable place to hang out.  And gee, there’s a nice park a few blocks away, too, with lots of concealed areas.  Believe me, Live Oak would start looking more like People’s Park within a year.

    Berkeley, at this point in time, cannot handle more community space.  It can barely handle what it has now. 

  • It’s a common mistake, but Piedmont Avenue is in Oakland, not Piedmont. 

  • savingracesarah

     “Street” people are as entitled to the ground we walk upon as anyone, maybe even more so because they have no cozy home to take refuge. I would love to see more sidewalk cafes without the noise and odor of traffic. Sitting at Poulet we commented on how nice it would be if Shattuck was a pedestrian walkway…I am sure the people eating on the traffic islands would agree.

  • Tim: thanks for spotting that error. I’ve fixed it.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to nitpick here, but I believe (la) Maison is feminine in French and so the two adjectives which modify it should both have an “e” at the end:

  • Vous avez bien sur raison, mon cher Anonymous. Merci!

  • Any_body_killer_lp

    If you don’t want to live with a picnic area in your own front yard, America, let alone the world may offer you another space to complain about other things that bug you where you live.

  • The Sharkey

    “Street” people are as entitled to the ground we walk upon as anyone, maybe even more so because they have no cozy home to take refuge.

    So the less someone contributes to the upkeep of public space, the more right they have to use it? Huh?

  • I knew Gregoire as a kid in Grazay where I also lived with my family. I am more than a little bit surprised to read that his folks slaughtered a pig twice a year because I think I would have heard of such a thing back then since I would spend a lot of time with the Jacquets at their home and my mom was the closest friend of his mom’s. Crazy years. Maine, which is the traditional name of the region of Western France that Grazay is situated in, was beautiful and offered lots of space and freedom for the wild kids that we were.

  • Enjoyed the interview! Gregoire’s was a life-line when we were busy raising our twin boys and needed a gourmet take-out meal on short notice. He’s a great guy and I’ve having him in the community.