By Joe Tash
As word of the death of Julien Hug spread through the San Diego community last week, residents reacted with sadness and disbelief at the loss of the popular and charismatic restaurateur.
Hug, 35, the son of Bertrand and Denise Hug, owners of the well-known eateries Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe and Bertrand at Mr. A’s downtown, was found dead last week in a remote area off Highway 74 in Riverside County. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department later reported that the apparent cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The family is well known in La Jolla, where Bertrand Hug started his restaurant career in 1973, as the managing partner of Le Cote d'Azur. He also was involved in the ownership of Mon Ami, La Mediterranean, Bertrand's and La Maison du Lac.
A public memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Friday at the Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe, 6225 Paseo Delicias.
Rev. Jack Baca, senior pastor at the Village Church, said he was told by Bertrand Hug that “everyone is welcome” at the service, where a crowd of 700 or more people is expected.
“We’re planning to seat as many people as we possibly can,” said Baca, adding that the Hug family “very much appreciates the outpouring of love and support from friends and the larger community.”
Julien Hug was a familiar fixture to many in the community both due to his work as host and manager at Mille Fleurs, a local dining institution in the Village, and from his and his parents’ philanthropic activities.
The factors that led Julien Hug to take his own life remained a mystery to many who knew him, and even his family had little idea there was anything wrong, according to Bertrand Hug in an interview granted to San Diego’s Fox Channel 5.
“Some of us never saw this coming or anything. He was the most beautiful person inside and out, he was a classic guy, he was a gentle soul,” said Bertrand Hug in the broadcast interview.
“He should have been a writer, he should have been an actor, he was too beautiful,” Bertrand Hug said.
According to the interview, Julien Hug left notes for his parents, girlfriend and co-workers, describing how he had battled emotional problems for many years. Bertrand Hug told the interviewer that he had not yet been able to bring himself to read the note addressed to him.
As news of his death filtered through the community, those who knew him recalled his warm, welcoming manner, movie-star good looks and zest for life. When he wasn’t working in one of his family’s restaurants, he enjoyed skydiving, riding motorcycles and driving sports cars. Last year, he gained fame as a contestant on the ABC TV reality show, “The Bachelorette.”
La Jollan Maureen Clancy wrote in a posting on the Rancho Santa Fe News website (the Light’s sister paper): “The compliments that were showered on Julien Hug during his all-too-brief life — gracious, charming, professional, creative, dynamic — were justly earned. As a restaurateur, he had the prized ability to make all his guests feel like the most important people in the room.