Yesterday we spoke with Jacques Capsouto about his restaurant’s Sephardic Passover Seder and Israel’s burgeoning wine scene. Today he tells us why he’s never wanted to build a restaurant empire.
You originally founded the restaurant with your brothers. How did you divide up the tasks?
Albert, the youngest who passed away a year ago, took care of the dining room. Sami did the bookkeeping, and I was in control of the kitchen. And then I took over the bar in the 1990s and did the wines.
What is the trick to keeping customers coming back?
To have consistency is very important. And prices — we’ve been able to keep them down since we have no managers. And being innovative with the wines and food. We started bistro fare. We started a lot of trends and classical food that no one does anymore: quenelles, sweetbreads, onion soup … well, people do onion soup, but no one does it well.
Nowadays restaurateurs have five, 10 restaurants and it seems like building a brand is so important. Did you ever want to have multiple places?
We have a brand but we don’t believe in expanding. It’s just the way it happened. We never looked to do that. We are busy enough here.
The restaurant is known for its soufflés. What’s the secret to getting a good one?
You just need to have a great recipe. It’s not a secret. If you’re knowledgeable, it’s not secret. We have created a good formula and we just follow it, blending and the mixing. It’s like making wine; it’s just following directions.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in New York City?
Lately, we don’t go out that much, but we go to Corton. And we’re friends with the Nieporents. I was friendly with Chanterelle, but they no longer exist. I used to go to La Caravelle, La Côte Basque, but no longer there. Now I cook at home. I only go out when I travel.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 14, 2011