Degaine and his wife Marie opened Cafe Azur in September 2016. During that time, it developed enough of a following to earn $2 million in revenue in 2017. That success made it appealing to a French company that owns 24 restaurants in France and wants to break into the American market. Simply put, the company made the Degaines an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“They did a good proposition and we were, like, well, why not,” Degaine says. “We did the deal with them. That’s pretty much it.”
The new owners took control of the restaurant January 1 and have already begun making changes to the menu to gauge local reaction to some new dishes. Although he didn’t want to speak too specifically about the new owner’s plans, Degaine says they intend to close Cafe Azur in March and reopen after a month or two with a new name and a new look.
Meanwhile, the chef and his wife are contemplating their next opportunity. Degaine says they’re scouting for spaces inside the loop in areas like Rice Village, Highland Village, and along Westheimer near Mid Lane. While the couple intend to maintain certain aspects of the way they managed Cafe Azur — specifically, Marie will still handle front of the house and Sidney will cook — the chef is considering a new culinary direction.
“I want to do a small tasting menu with a small price. Maybe $49,” Degaine says. “People can taste four plates, spend some money on wine. That’s it. It will be more like a chef-driven restaurant and not a French style. I don’t like French onion soup and escargot. I want to be more modern in my food.”
The fixed menu would change weekly, which would allow Degaine to keep his menu seasonal and provide interest for diners who wanted to try something new.
“When you are in the kitchen, you get tired to do the same plates every week,” Degaine says. “If we could change it, that would be fun. Even the clients could go back and get a different taste of the chef’s recipes.”
Overall, Degaine sees the sale as a win-win. Cafe Azur’s new owners get a proven location for a French restaurant stemming from the location’s previous incarnation as Brasserie Max & Julie. The chef and his wife get a fresh start in a new location with an intriguing new concept.
“Nothing bad happened,” Degaine says. “We’re really happy about what’s happening.”