PASS CHRISTIAN -- Rather than spend his 21st birthday celebrating with friends and family or drinking at a bar, Jourdan Nicaud signed a lease on a building in downtown Gulfport that would become Bacchus Food and Drink four months later.
With no experience in the restaurant industry, Nicaud made a risky decision Dec. 29, 2010. His vision for a New Orleans-style Cajun steakhouse opened in April 2011, and has become a Coast favorite.
Nicaud, now 24, has added two more businesses to his resume -- Flyin' Jalapeño in Gulfport and Bacchus on the Beach in Pass Christian.
Nicaud said it's a great feeling to be so young and already have three restaurants to his name.
"I'd rather be doing this than anything else," he said.
From the time he was a child, Nicaud said, he knew he wanted to make a name for himself in the dining industry.
When his parents would host parties or events at their Pass Christian home, Nicaud would take the role of head chef.
Sometimes he would cook for 200 or 300 people.
"I really enjoyed cooking for them," he said. Many of the recipes and dishes he whipped up at home were inspiration for the dishes at his restaurants.
"I hoped people would enjoy all of the food I enjoyed," he said.
Opening up shop
Nicaud's mother designed the interiors for all three restaurant locations. Walking into Bacchus Food and Drink brings a diner onto a bright, lavish Mardi Gras float. At Bacchus on the Beach, blues and tans create a laid-back, coastal atmosphere. The building's windows and decks are framed in aqua. The outdoor dining space, called Seer Sucker Bar, is an extended deck equipped with an oyster bar.
At Flyin' Jalapeno on the corner of Broad and Railroad avenues, the cafeteria line-style taqueria is bright and modern.
Nicaud's father, who owns an international firm, helps with the business side of owning three restaurants.
Operating three restaurants
Nicaud said he's a hands-on business owner.
"I'm here every day," he said.
His three restaurants employ 40 people.
His philosophy on dining is to serve large portions and ensure the customer leaves happy.
Nicaud opened Bacchus on the Beach on Jan. 20, and he said it has been busy.
"Things have been going very nicely," he said.
The menu caters to the coastal theme of the restaurant, so it differs from the menu at Bacchus Food and Drink.
"The menu at Bacchus on the Beach is definitely seafood based," he said.
Nicaud said his employees are like family and make a great team.
"They work hard to make sure everything works out," he said. "If they need me, they can come to me."
Nicholas Carter, manager at Bacchus on the Beach, said Nicaud's involvement in the restaurant creates a fun atmosphere for his employees.
"He runs a good show," Carter said. "He's very generous and understanding. I love coming to work."
Nicaud said he is happy to walk into his restaurants every day.
"It's kind of a dream come true," he said.