Grégoire, the high-end artisan takeout French restaurant at 2109 Cedar St., will be closed for the next few weeks because of a fire that broke out in its kitchen on Monday.
Flames erupted near a cooktop around 8:19 a.m., according to Berkeley Fire Battalion Chief Paul Cavagnaro. Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames in about ten minutes, but there was considerable smoke damage, he said.
Grégoire is such a tiny space that the fire not only destroyed the kitchen but scorched the ceiling, some tables, the front wooden counter, and the point-of-sale system, said Grégoire Jacquet, the chef who opened the restaurant and catering company in the Gourmet Ghetto area in 2002. Jacquet met with a cleaning crew and contractor yesterday and they estimated it might cost as much as $80,000 to repair the restaurant. He is covered by insurance.
In his long career, Jacquet has experienced many kitchen fires. They are a common hazard of the industry, he said. But none have shaken him like this one.
“I’m drained,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’ve been through a lot of kitchen fires just because it’s nature and you control them and handle them and minimize them. I’m trained for that. I am not trained for this. It’s another new ball game to see my kitchen like this, to feel I am hopeless.”
Jacquet said he is sorry to disappoint his customers and the people and businesses that hired him to prepare food for their events. He had to cancel an event with UC Berkeley on Monday, one of many on the restaurant’s calendar.
Grégoire is well-known for its crispy potato puffs, which San Francisco magazine featured in its “125 Best Things to Eat” issue. Jacquet changes up the menu every season and seeks out the best ingredients he can find, according to the restaurant’s website.
The Berkeley Fire Department has not yet determined a cause for the fire, but is investigating whether it was caused by a short circuit, he said.
Jacquet did not know how long it would take to repair the fire damage but said it could be two to three weeks. Jacquet has 13 employees and he believes insurance will cover their salaries until the restaurant reopens.