By Kelley Carlson
Two of Rancho Santa Fe’s sparkling personalities have been selected as “jewels” for an annual gala benefiting The Arc of San Diego.
Bertrand and Denise Hug, who own two of the finest restaurants in the region (Bertrand at Mr. A’s and Mille Fleurs) and support a number of local causes, will be honored during The Jewels of San Diego Gala on May 5 at The Grand Del Mar. The event raises funds for The Arc and its programs, which aid children and adults with disabilities throughout the county.
To help promote the gala, Denise drew from her modeling background and posed in cabaret-themed publicity photos.
“It was a two-and-a-half-hour shoot, and I had fun doing it,” she said.
The Hugs have been involved with charities for years, Denise said, and their main focuses are on children and the arts.
“We’re very active in the community,” Bertrand said.
Perhaps the one closest to the couple’s hearts is Hugs 4 Kids, a program of Kids Korps USA that was created in honor of their son, Julien, who died in 2010. Julien had been a longtime supporter of Kids Korps and a recipient of its national leadership award. According to its Web site, Hugs 4 Kids’ mission is “to ignite healthy inner growth and support the positive identity of young people by engaging youth, families and communities in educational programs, hands-on activities and awareness campaigns.”
Another nonprofit the Hugs are involved with is Casa de Amparo, which aims to prevent child abuse and supports those who are affected by it.
The couple have a fondness for theaters and museums, especially those at Balboa Park. They contribute to helping attractions such as the Tony Award-winning Old Globe theater, which presents 15 plays and musicals on three stages during its year-round season.
The nonprofit North Coast Repertory Theatre, based in Solana Beach, is on the Hugs’ support list, as well. In fact, the Hugs served as honorary chairs for the theater’s “Thirtieth Anniversary Season Gala” that was held April 22 at the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club.
Denise is also a member of The Country Friends, which aids human care agencies with an emphasis on those that provide services to women, children and the elderly. The Rancho Santa Fe-based Country Friends raises money through the consignment shop it owns and operates, and it also holds a fashion runway show every September. This year, Denise is serving on the show’s planning committee for the first time.
The Hugs assist these aforementioned nonprofits -- and more -- in various capacities. Along with attending numerous meetings, they often host events at their restaurants to help offset the organizations’ expenses.
“It’s so the charities can raise money,” Bertrand noted. “Everything goes directly to the charity.”
The couple also honor those involved in working with the nonprofits through dinners and parties as a way to say “thank you,” Bertrand said.
The restaurants themselves also keep the Hugs occupied. There’s the quaint Mille Fleurs — or “Thousand Flowers” — in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, which offers a menu of fresh French Californian fare that changes daily. Farther south, near downtown San Diego, is Bertrand at Mr. A’s, where guests dine on American cuisine while taking in views of the city’s skyline and the bay.
Bertrand has been involved in the restaurant business for several decades. After the French native earned a degree in economics at the University of Toulouse, he eventually made his way to the United States, supporting himself by waiting tables in restaurants. In 1973, Bertrand became managing partner of Le Cote d’Azur in La Jolla. He went on to manage, co-own or own several more restaurants in the area — including Mon Ami in Solana Beach, La Mediterranean, Bertrand’s in Leucadia, and La Maison du Lac — before buying the Mille Fleurs property in 1984 and moving to Rancho Santa Fe the following year. In 2000, Bertrand bought the Mister A’s lease and redesigned the establishment.
Both Mille Fleurs and Bertrand at Mister A’s have gone on to become award-winning restaurants. Mille Fleurs has been named among the top 25 in the country by Food & Wine magazine, and Bertrand himself has garnered honors such as “Restaurateur of the Year” by the California Restaurant Association’s San Diego chapter.
Managing the restaurants and assisting charities naturally keeps the Hugs busy.
“I get to work early and leave late,” Bertrand said.
During their spare time, the Hugs — who have been married for 38 years — can often be found on the golf course or at the horse races. They also enjoy traveling, whether it’s their annual cruise with their friends, visiting Bertrand’s father in Europe once a year, or seeing Denise’s family in Maryland and Virginia.
Traveling “is the only way to get away from the restaurants,” Bertrand said. For more information, visit www.millefleurs.com, www.bertrandatmisteras.com and www.arc-sd.com.