Beloved owner of La Bicyclette Restaurant in Carmel dies
by Dennis L. Taylor
CARMEL >> Gaston Georis, a well-liked Carmel restaurateur who created menus from organic, locally produced vegetables and fish long before it was popular, has died following a non-COVID-19 illness.
Mr. Georis is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Sheila Sheppard, and his two sons, Nico and Gabriel. No other details were provided. In a statement released by his wife and sons, Mr. Georis was described as kind, gentle, curious and intelligent.
Brothers Gaston Georis, left, and Walter Georis in the garden outside the Carmel Valley Art Center in 2006.
“He was driven by his passions, his creative mind, and his genuine love of people both as individuals and as cultures.”
“He always had an interest in everything and everyone he encountered. He was an amazing storyteller and a great dancer.” His family said that as a business person and restaurateur, Mr. Georis was unique in his authenticity. He loved La Bicyclette and his staff, the family wrote.
“He was a great leader, always leading from the heart first,” they said. “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. His sense of humor and joy could be seen as he walked the restaurant, engaged in reading people their fortunes in bowls of chocolate mousse, or dancing late at night at Barmel.”
He immigrated with his family to California in the 1950s and had many careers. He was in a band with his brother Walter Georis called The Sandals, who wrote the soundtrack to Bruce Brown’s “The Endless Summer.” He was a college professor, the original importer of Birkenstock sandals. He continued writing music his whole life and wrote a book about his adventures.
“Gaston taught his family perspective about the world by encouraging travel and learning other languages,” the family said. “He taught them to find joy all around and how to love what they did.”
Gaston Georis, who was a co-owner of Casanova restaurant in Carmel at the time, in his world-class wine cellar in 2005.
“He was an iconic individual in Carmel — very outgoing, candid and humorous.”
Mr. Georis left many admirers outside his family, including Carmel Mayor Dave Potter. “He was a wonderful guy,” Potter said.
Mr. Georis was a central figure in the Carmel restaurant community. Ken Spilfogel, the owner of Flaherty’s Seafood in Carmel and also an early adopter of sustainable food menus, described Mr. Georis as his “go-to guy” as part of a group of Carmel restaurant owners who would come together to discuss issues such as outdoor dining in the COVID- 19 era.
“He was so smart, so funny; I loved the guy.”
“I’ve been talking to Gaston every week since 1978,” Spilfogel said. “He was fantastic, a significant icon and spirit of our community.”
Mr. Georis’ connection to the broader community was made clear when in 2019 Mr. Georis and La Bicyclette was named the Business of the Year by the Carmel Chamber of Commerce, which this week posted a statement on its Facebook page.
“Our hearts are heavy but full today as we honor the amazing life of Gaston Georis. On behalf of the Carmel Chamber, our board of directors, our community and the many visitors from around the world whose lives have been touched by this incredibly wonderful gentleman, we are sending much love to the Georis family.”
Tony Salameh, the owner of Anton & Michel Restaurant in Carmel, counted Mr. Georis as a friend for the past 40 years. “He was a very soft-spoken, gentle person,” Salameh said. “He cooperated with all the restaurateurs and was very obliging if we needed anything. He was a success story from the beginning.”
That beginning was in 1974 when Mr. Georis and his brother opened La Boheme Restaurant at Dolores and Seventh Street in Carmel, which sat on the location where La Bicyclette sits today. The food was modeled after the family meals Mr. Georis and Walter grew up on as children in Belgium.
A few years ago the brothers split, with Mr. Georis keeping La Bicyclette while Walter Georis took full control over Casanova Restaurant, also in Carmel.
For the past 20 years, Mr. Georis and La Bicyclette have also been teaching children about healthy food choices through cooking demonstrations and cooking classes at local schools’ organic gardens.
“Thank you, Gaston, for so many lovely memories.”
The chamber wrote on its Facebook page, “We look forward to your family’s new journey as they honor your legacy, and we continue to enjoy the fabulous food, good wine, and great joy in a way that only La Bicyclette offers.”