OT: How did you choose India as your restaurant destination?
Jerome Cousin: I’ve travelled to many places but India was never on my radar. However, this friend of mine kept saying, “You keep putting it off. You don’t have to pay much or worry about anything. Just come” and that’s what I did. I booked a ticket to India and have been here since, visiting all the different parts of this country. It’s been 16 years and I have no intention of going back to France! My family owns three restaurants back home and my brothers manage one each. I tell my family that if they want to meet me, they should come to India.
OT: What’s your cooking style?
Jerome Cousin: I was brought up in a family of restaurateurs. Ever since I was little, I would help my family in their restaurant kitchens, using little pots and pans to do this and that. I like traditional and that’s what I want to serve. Many feel French food has tiny portions. I don’t believe in that and so I always serve good helpings because to me, you want to eat! Indians are now travelling all over, so they are very aware. Earlier many would say French food isn’t spiced up, but today they are willing to try the traditional style of French cuisine.
OT: How did Chez Jerome come about?
Jerome Cousin: I first opened P’tit Bar in Defence Colony, followed by Rara Avis in Greater Kailash 2 in 2012. By the time Rara Avis shut down due to rent issues, I realised that the customers were 70 per cent Indians and only 30 per cent expats. It was the other way round when we had initially opened. Before this venture, I opened a spa and café in Lado Sarai. I wanted to run a place where I could serve customers the kind of food I wanted to cook, without the hindrances of partners and profits. Two months ago, I finally found the location and opened Chez Jerome.
OT: What’s the philosophy here?
Jerome Cousin: To make it affordable for everyone to experience French cuisine. The prices on the menu are reasonable, unlike Rara Avis, which was fine dining. We bring in exotic ingredients like snails from France but mostly source local produce. You will also find Asian and Italian options on the menu. This is to cater to everyone’s palate. In my earlier ventures, I had lost out on customers because among groups, there are always a few who don’t like French food. So, here, they can find options. Also, pizza is widely eaten in France now!