A Vatel Nimes alumnus, class of 1996, Jerome Ferrer is not only a Canadian Master Chef, but also an exceptional businessman.
When he moved to Quebec in 2001 with two friends who were also Vateliens, he created what has become an empire: Groupe Europea, now including several restaurants and coffee shops, specialized boutiques, a vineyard, a catering department, and he has just added a food-processing and transformation facility.
A remarkable Vatel success story!
In 1996, you and your classmates, Ludovic Delonca and Patrice de Felice graduated from Vatel. Tell us about emigrating to Canada and how your corporate empire was built.
Our story began because we all shared the same dream: each having our own restaurant.
And I well remember what Mr. Sebban, who founded Vatel, once told us: “don’t dream your lives, live your dreams.” And we all decided to take his advice.
So we left for Quebec in October, 2001 and we founded Groupe Europea” which grew as the years went by when we opened the Europea Boutique Mall,, the Beaver Hall Brasserie the Andiamo restaurant, and our two coffee shops, Birksand Grevin. Our Group also has four restaurants we jointly own with a partner in Brazil and a very big catering department.
And quite recently I bought a few acres of vineyards from my cousin that my father, a grape producer, formerly owned, to create my own wine domain ‘La Terre de mon Pere’ [My Father’s Land], and our first bottles of wine are now on sale through AMG, an import company.
With Spanish, Italian and Catalonian dishes, our ‘techno-emotional’ cooking of the Europea brand was inspired by the roots of all three of us have.
We were lucky that we succeeded so quickly in the eyes of our customers and peers. In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, Europea won the Restaurant of the Year Award by the Societé des Chefs, Pâtissiers et Cuisiniers du Québec [Quebec Chefs, Pastry Cooks, and Cooks], as well as by Le Devoir, Le Journal de Montréal, [Montreal Daily] and the Debeur Guidebook. And in 2011, I personally won the Chef of the Year Award from the Quebec Chefs Association as well as theRelais & Chateaux Master Chef Award. In 2012 our restaurant was ranked as one of the ten best restaurants in the world by Travelers Choice and the well-known web site, Trip Advisor, and in 2013, we were asked to join the prestigious association ‘Grandes Tables du Monde’ [World’s Best Restaurants.]
All three of us are really proud of these awards and particularly proud of our employees. And very special thanks for Jean-Marc Guillot, who has the distinction of Best French Pastry Chef, and who works with me to make and create our exceptional desserts.
What advice could you give to Vatel students who want to own their own hotel or restaurant?
The advice I could give them would be to visualize the end of their projects before even beginning them. Too often we draw up these really optimistic business plans while forgetting the most important thing: everything that’s started must also be finished. Whether it’s a contract for an association, a take-over, etc. You have to have a long-term vision and set milestones; that allows you to be in harmony with yourself and keeps you from choosing poor solutions.
You’ve also written several books, you’re very active on social utility sites where you regularly propose to your followers, fans and friends “Thoughts to Meditate.” Could you tell us a bit more about this one? ‘To succeed and enjoy working in the restaurant business, you must want to give much more than you want to receive. This is an essential frame of mind.’
Our profession has really changed. We used to be inn-keepers and now we are culinary specialists. Just like artists when performing in public, we have to give 100% of what we’ve got.
‘If you want to receive, you have to know how to give,’ summarizes my philosophy, both in my personal and professional life.
You also said ‘Word of mouth is the real key to success, but it only works well when you reach a certain level.’ What do you mean by this?
In my opinion, success goes through these stages I call the ‘3Ks”:
- Transmitting this know-how to your employees and
- Making this known.
And finally, you also said: ‘A Chef who is an extraordinary cook but a poor manager will never succeed.’ How come?
Simply because to succeed in business, you also have to have an entrepreneurial and visionary spirit!
What are your medium and long-term projects?
As we can never refuse a good challenge, in the summer of 2013, we founded CDA-TEQ, a new-generation food-processing center with a customized subcontracting department, where we can process 10,000 dishes per day that will be sold in supermarkets.