Gaston Georis, the man behind Carmel restaurant La Bicyclette passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at the age of 79. Born in 1941, he immigrated to California from Belgium in the 1950s. Though he is well known as a restaurateur, he had a passion for life that was evident in his several careers before opening the restaurant on the corner of Dolores and Seventh.
In the early ’60s, riding the wave of surf rock, he and his brother were in a band called the Sandals. The band is best known for creating the soundtrack for Bruce Brown's surfing documentary The Endless Summer. He was also a college professor and importer of Birkenstock sandals. He also owned or helped operate other Carmel eateries with his brother Walter Georis.
He is best known however for La Bicyclette, which he started as a family business in 1974. The restaurant is known for its brilliant execution of humble, but elevated European-inspired dishes like their champignon pizza and steak au poivre—a menu inspired by his childhood meals in Belgium.
Served alongside delicious plates of food was also a hearty helping of Georis' hospitality. In a statement to the Weekly by his wife and sons, they recall that he was often spotted floating from table-to-table "reading people's fortunes in bowls of chocolate mousse."
He was just as omnipresent for his staff as well. The Georis family writes, "He loved his staff, and he was a great leader, always leading from the heart first. He was loved and admired by his staff and his clientele alike. He treated everyone in a way that they felt understood, and they were often inspired by him." In Feb. 16, 2017, he closed down the restaurant in solidarity with his workers who participated in a national boycott known as Day Without Immigrants.
To his friends and family, he was just a passionate about life, encouraging traveling and learning about different cultures and languages. "He was driven by his passions, his creative mind, and his genuine love of people both as individuals and as cultures," his family writes. " He taught his family to find joy all around and how to love what they did."
It's quite a lead to follow. His son Gabe Georis follows in his father's passion for food, running Mundaka, which eventually turned into Pescadero in Carmel, and starting Chef Stash (a curated chefy CSA-type grocery service). His other son Nico Georis, is a musician, who is both a solo artist and a member of the band Sky Country. He is also survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Sheila Sheppard.