How French Chef, Jeoffrey Offer, carried his dream from Toulouse to Costa Mesa

Butcher’s House, a modern brasserie centered around the antique craft of butchery, opened this month at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Collection. The restaurant marks the fulfillment of a lifelong goal for chef and owner Jeoffrey Offer.

“Butcher’s House allows me to take ownership of my American dream,” Offer said, “and share my passion for cooking with the people who will continue to make that dream a reality.”

Offer’s dream started in his childhood when he imagined coming to America and becoming an actor in Hollywood. “Being an action movie star was my top, number one dream,” he said.

Born and raised in the south of France, Offer was inspired by his butcher father to pursue the culinary arts. He banked on his skills as a classically trained French chef to help make his dream of living and working in America a reality.

“I knew that being a chef, or at least a cook, would allow me to travel,” he said.

He went to culinary school in his hometown of Toulouse and began working at Le Cercle d’Oc, under Chef Raymond Serres, who Offer credits with igniting his passion for cooking.

Offer did so well with Chef Raymond that he was tapped to help open Le Patio de St. Jory, putting his dream of getting to America on pause. In 2011, Offer accepted a chef-educator position at a new culinary school and restaurant in Myanmar. Then in 2012, he accepted a corporate sous chef position at Sodexo Co.’s the Sky, a fine-dining restaurant reserved exclusively for Airbus executives, with the intent of building his resume to come to cook in the U.S.

Offer was turning 24 and aspired to be in America with a job by the time he was 25. “It didn’t matter if I was a dishwasher, a trash guy, it didn’t matter, I just wanted to be here,” he said.

Offer obtained a two-month tourist visa and got a ticket to Los Angeles. He packed a backpack with two chef coats and one pair of chef pants — a sufficient uniform supply for a line cook job, he thought. “I didn’t really need them because cooks in America come in wearing jeans and a T-shirt,” Offer laughed.

More importantly, Offer wrote down the names of prominent French restaurants in the area, determined to be hired at one of them after he arrived.

He secured employment with Monsieur Marcel, a gourmet market with a French bistro, and started helping with catering jobs. He was paid weekly, in cash, and stayed at a nearby hostel.

He worked diligently before going back to France at the end of his two months.

Offer obtained a renewed visa, this time for 90 days, and was back in the states a couple months later. Monsieur Marcel didn’t have a position for him any longer, but he was introduced to a restauranteur who promised a full-time position with a new French restaurant that was scheduled to open before his visa ran out.

In the interim, Offer cooked private dinners, though it didn’t pay enough to cover the cost of living. His rental car was draining his funds, and one day as he drove through Koreatown, a Chevy van at a car dealership caught his eye.

Between Offer’s French accent and the car dealer’s Korean one, he said they were able to come to an agreement. He drove off in the van, intending to use it for catering events.

The restaurant opening was continually pushed back, and Offer’s visa was almost up. He was also running low on money, and the hostel no longer had room for him.

“Hotels, no way, they were $200 a night. If I go to a hotel tomorrow, in a week I go back to France and my dream is over. Really over because then I have to work for at least one year to come back.”

So the van became his home. But then his visa expired.

Offer had to go back, but before he left, he took a meeting with Laurent Vrignaud, a French-born businessman who was building a restaurant in Orange County called Moulin, specializing in Parisian fresh-baked breads and handmade pastries.

It was 2014, and Vrignaud hired Offer to open the brand’s flagship location in Newport Beach.

Offer went back to France with an appointment at the French Embassy to apply for a J-1 Visa, which can be approved for those looking for study and work-related exchange programs approved by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“I will be here for the opening,” Offer promised.

But because he had overstayed before, the embassy denied his request.

A family friend helped him redo his file and apply a second time. He returned for a second appointment three weeks later. This time the embassy gave him a different answer: “Enjoy your stay in America.”

Offer arrived a few days after the Moulin opening, but since they weren’t sure of his status, his position had been filled. He found a place as a pastry assistant at the restaurant and eventually became executive chef, helping to expand the brand to five locations over six years. One location was at South Coast Collection where he eyed a small, vacant restaurant space almost daily.

Chef and owner Jeoffrey Offer at Butcher's House in Costa Mesa.

Chef and owner Jeoffrey Offer poses for a portrait at Butcher’s House, a modern brasserie, at the SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Offer contacted a Realtor, hoping to make the next part of his American dream come true.

“The thing is I came here seven years ago, to Costa Mesa, and I came to this center,” Offer said, referring to SoCo. “Nobody was here, and I thought the center was great, and I didn’t know why nobody was here. I have always liked it.”

Offer initially envisioned a burger spot, with meat ground in-house, but as he pieced things together the concept grew into the Butcher House, with a focus on dry-aged meats.

“Now here we are and we don’t do only burgers,” said Offer.

Dry-aged beef burgers are on the menu, but so are 30-day dry-aged bone-in ribeye, filet mignon, and New York steak. The menu also offers house specialties like Toulouse sausage and country-style pork paté that reference Offer’s home in France.

Offer said those years when he was in the hostel, there were many people like him who came from different countries and hoped to make it in America.

“I remember going to Marcel at 7 a.m. and coming back at 10 p.m., six days a week. I think every single person told me this guy is taking advantage of you and you are wrong to do that,” Offer said. “I said, ‘I don’t work for him, I work for me. I want to live here, and I will earn that no matter what.’”

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Rebecca R. Ammons

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