Girard Gourmet has been an institution in the Village of La Jolla for almost thirty years, and its success is due in no small part to owners Diana and Francois Goedhuys, heart of the brainpower behind the small operation since its inception in 1988. The idea of a fully sustainable bakery and restaurant was largely Francois’ vision – from the small town in Belgium where he grew up to the bustling streets of San Diego, he has maintained one vital conviction: developing food that is organic, fresh, and handmade.
Growing up, Francois’ family had their own fruit trees, orchards, and vegetable and herb gardens. They would grind farmers’ grains on their property and spent much of their time cultivating fresh fare for the family table. Francois remembers feeling a deep connection with the land even back then – he knew it was what he wanted to do, and when he happened upon a “For Sale” building in the heart of La Jolla on a short layover, it was fate. He immediately bought it and moved to San Diego in 1988. A few years earlier he and Diana had met in Houston, where she owned a school that his son attended. When the restaurant grew in customers and in demand, she joined him in California to cultivate their newfound aspirations.
SEE ALSO: A Day At Girard Gourmet’s Secret Garden
Garden Fresh and “Small Circles” of Sustainability
In 2002, the couple discovered a one-acre piece of property in Julian that evoked the country spirit of Francois’ childhood Belgian home. It boasted its own freshwater well, some burgeoning fruit trees, and enough land to make something of – the perfect venue to expand their growing Southern California bakery.
Francois began to dutifully fertilize the soil and develop a rich planting area. He quickly created what he refers to as “small circles” of organic sustainability: every Monday, he transported 200 buckets of food scraps from the restaurant to Julian and fed it to the chickens. In turn, the chickens would fertilize the soil with their droppings, making a rich blend of natural soil and organic nutrients. He would then bring back vegetables that were planted and grown on the farm, return home to cook fresh dishes with the herbs and veggies, and repeat the steps all over again. He still rigorously maintains this cycle today, and insists it is an irreplaceable element of his success.
The chickens are all free-range, and the veggies and greens are all garden-fresh and organic. An increasing amount of regular customers will come in and ask Francois what is fresh from Julian that particular week. There are vases of fresh cut flowers on the tables: peonies, fruit tree blossoms, and wildflowers, all of which create a rustic, more inviting aura.
“It’s very exciting for me, to have it finally perfected…to oversee everything from our garden to the customer’s plate and to know we have controlled it every step of the way. It’s magic,” Francois said with a smile. And indeed, growing something from the ground up takes time and effort – 10 years later, he can proudly say that his business is completely and 100% sustainable.
A Lifelong Passion Realized
This was an easy vision for Francois to follow, and a deeply enjoyable one. When asked what he loves most about what he does, Francois’ answer was simple: he loves being close to the earth every day and to bear witness to how giving it can be. The health of the soil, how well you take care of it, is vital – the better you are to the earth, the more healthy product it will give you in return.
His current recipes for the menu at Girard Gourmet are purely trial and error, and he will endlessly taste-test to find the perfect combinations. Ideas flow naturally, but flavor and freshness remain crucial to separating their fare from market-purchasing competitors. All in all, with a solid 25 years behind them and countless more ahead, Francois and Diana are happy owners of a beautifully flourishing and self-sustaining establishment.
Stop by Girard Gourmet at 7837 Girard Avenue in La Jolla for an afternoon of exquisitely fresh cuisine surrounded by the aroma of just-cut flowers, and an authentic experience that only something truly homemade can produce.
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