Everything you needed to know about the restaurant George’s on Sunset is implied in its motto, posted in purple neon just inside the door: “If you don’t bring your lady to George’s, someone else will.”
It’s cocky, irreverent. It hints at what the kids would call FOMO (fear of missing out), and, it’s irrepressibly French. It says, This is the kind of place you’d expect to find cougars and basic brunchers, karaoke and a disco ball, an ill-advised party waiting to break out, where every night seems like ladies' night.
As of this week, though, the party’s over.
Georges-Eric Farge, 48, who opened several long-running French restaurants in his 25 years in Miami, has closed George’s on Sunset. June 3 was its last day. He sold his stake in the business to his longtime business partner, former University of Miami quarterback Craig Erickson, who will reopen it this summer as Gringo’s oyster bar.
“After 25 years in the restaurant business, I need some time for myself,” said Farge, who raised two children (the younger of whom will enter college in the fall), while running his five South Florida restaurants.
Farge opened one of the best-known French restaurants in Miami, Le Bouchon du Grove, after training under two of the world’s best-known restaurateurs: Paul Bocuse and Mickey Mouse.
By the time he was 18, Farge had been kicked out of every school he’d ever attended in his hometown of Leon, France (even though his mother was a school dean) when they discovered the internship program at Disney World’s Epcot. They sent him, hoping that he’d see more of the world and find his path.
“My parents didn’t know what to do with me,” he said.
He landed in the frying pan that was the French kitchen at the World Showcase restaurant run by world-renowned chef Paul Bocuse. There he learned the kind of militant discipline (read: lots of yelling) and love of food you learn in a French kitchen. It also prepared him for war.
Farge returned to France for his required military service when the Gulf War broke out. Because of his kitchen training (and his parents pulling a few strings, he said) he ended up handling the food and beverage for the French embassies in Iraq and Jordan.
While some of his fellow soldiers were in the field, he was ordering foie gras, truffles and Champagne for elaborate state dinners at the embassy. It also taught him he was done taking orders.
“I wasn’t the type of character to work for somebody else,” he said.
With the money he’d saved during his service, he bought out the old Deli Lane in Coconut Grove on Main Highway and opened Le Bouchon du Grove. He only sold it after 15 successful years when he realized his children were growing and didn’t know about their French heritage. He moved his family to France for a year, before returning to open George's in the Grove with one of his former best customers, Erickson.
That restaurant, and later the one in Sunset, were a reflection of Farge himself: a rule-breaker who liked to cook good food but also liked to have a good time. “A black sheep,” he calls himself.
The restaurant promised “an exciting environment for all,” and welcomed all kinds of celebrations, including, according to the website, fake birthdays, lawsuits, getting fired and plastic surgeries, ("Boobs and More").
However, competition from other restaurants heated up and George’s “became passé,” he said. When his daughter was set to graduate from Coral Reef, the last of his children would officially be adults and about to enter college. And he said he realized he was done with working for a while.
“They didn’t need me any more. They only need my credit card,” he joked.
Farge was to return to France Tuesday to visit family, then spend six months in Rio de Janeiro, where he will plan his next move, he said — perhaps a restaurant in Brazil.
“I feel this was the perfect time,” he said. “It was time to take a break.”