History in the baking: Girard Gourmet offers decades of experience serving La Jolla
Girard Gourmet has fed La Jollans for 34 years and has no plans to alter its recipe for fresh, creative options for any meal.
The restaurant at 7837 Girard Ave., run by husband-and-wife La Jollans Francois and Diana Goedhuys, offers a wide array of baked goods and lunch and dinner items including salads, sandwiches and quiches.
Among the favorite items, Diana Goedhuys said, is the Girard Gourmet Special sandwich, which comes with avocado, turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon, peperoncini, onions and roasted red peppers.
Also popular are the seasonal fruit pies made with plums, nectarines, apricots and other fruits the Goedhuys family grows on its farm in Julian.
“We have a small farm in the Pine Hills area,” which also has chickens that produce eggs to use in breakfast sandwiches and other items, Diana said.
“Other people live on our soups,” she said. “We make our own chicken stock, we make our own vegetable stock, every day.”
Some customers say “the only cake they’ll buy for family occasions is our ‘princess cake,’” she said.
The baking, done by Belgium native Francois, extends to custom cakes for all occasions.
Francois, who went to pastry school in Antwerp before owning a restaurant and bakery in Houston, specializes in “custom cookies” with business or college logos, Diana said. “We’re kind of famous for that.”
Girard Gourmet also is a full-service caterer, taking on “everything from dinner parties to receptions to memorials or baby showers and business catering,” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, “the nature of the business changed, at least for a few months, because of all the takeout,” Diana said. “We’re used to a single sandwich or soup and half sandwich. Instead, you had a mom with three kids at home facing a difficult situation in the grocery store.”
Customers “were ordering huge amounts of food, which was great, but we had to get it all organized,” she said. “It was very different for the first few months, then it eased back. Now we’re back to the old days.”
She thanked La Jollans for their support during the pandemic. “People were great,” she said. “They knew that we did takeout and they were here, they waited in line, they waited on the phone. They kept us open.
“We tried to take care of them, but they also took care of us and we really appreciated that.”
Francois brought his Belgian flair to La Jolla “completely by accident,” Diana said.
On a flight from San Francisco to Houston, he gave up his seat on the overbooked plane while it was stopped in San Diego. He decided to visit relatives, who took him to La Jolla.
“He walked into this store,” Diana said, “and there was a gal who had the same refrigerated cabinets with no merchandise. … She realized she was in over her head.”
Francois returned from Houston a month later to open the business as his own. Diana joined him about three years later after they became engaged.
Diana said Girard Gourmet’s popularity rose in its early years after a visit from “The Unknown Eater,” a CBS/8 TV personality who reviewed local restaurants in the 1980s.
“He had come in here with his microphone, asking people what their favorite thing was and they said the carrot muffin,” she said.
“From that moment on, [Francois] got busy,” said Diana, who added that the carrot muffin is still popular.
La Jolla is “a diverse, interesting community. It’s really fun getting to know some of our clients,” she said. “The most fun thing is the intergenerational aspect of it,” with people bringing their children and grandchildren to experience the same food they grew up with.
The staff also has been there a long time, she said. “They know the customers and what they want. It’s really funny; they’ll know people I don’t know. That’s reassuring for me.”
Girard Gourmet is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, visit girardgourmet.com.
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