BeauRivage founders honored

Pepperdine University President Andrew K. Benton attends last Friday’s ceremony honoring BeauRivage Restaurant founders Daniel Forge (top right) and and Luciana Forge (below right). 

Daniel Forge, reflecting on his and wife Luciana’s life’s work, kept a sense of humor when accepting a glass plaque and a bouquet.

“It’s a bit difficult for me, because I always—all my life—thought I should be a good listener and not talk much,” he joked as he delivered a short speech last week that soon turned heartfelt.

“There are a lot of wonderful people and I’m glad I know most of them. Many of them have been wonderful to us and I want to thank you all.”

The continental couple—Daniel from France, Luciana from Italy—who made their names here in Malibu as the gracious hosts of BeauRivage Restaurant for three decades were repaid Friday with a ceremony in their honor at Pepperdine University’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art. 

After attempting to sell their property at Corral Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway in recent years following unsuccessful battles with state agencies and environmental groups over plans to build a 27-room bed and breakfast there, the Forges agreed in June to transfer the title of the property to the university in a complex, but mutually beneficial agreement which allowed the Forges to retire in comfort and provided for their heirs. 

It also included nearly $3 million worth of donations to the university, which will help fund fall musicals and grant scholarships in the Forges’ name to Seaver College students aiming for a bachelor’s degree in musical or dramatic arts, a cause to which the Forges have long been deeply committed. 

Associate Professor of Theater Cathy Thomas-Grant expressed her appreciation of their efforts. 

“There’s nothing more special for me than to see these passionate, dedicated students pursuing and developing their God-given talents,” she said. 

It was a long road that brought the pair from Europe to California, and to each other. 

Daniel was working in a Paris restaurant in 1952 when he met a couple who were close friends with Beverly Hills Hotel owner Hernando Courtright. When the couple agreed to sponsor his time in the U.S. at the hotel, Daniel seized the opportunity. 

He later advanced to a job at Hollywood’s Golden Age hotspot Perino’s, where Alexander Perino would mentor him for more than a decade. 

In 1956, Daniel met Luciana Sodani, a professional singer from Rome who was returning from a tour of South America, and married her two years later. They went on to manage multiple Hollywood restaurants, and in 1962 opened their own, L’Auberge. L’Auberge also became among the first to bring classic French cuisine to Los Angeles. 

In the early 1980s, the two ditched Hollywood for the five-acre piece of land that would emerge as BeauRivage in 1982. The name is French for “beautiful seashore,” and the idyllic eatery would soon be renowned by critics as one of the Pacific coast’s most beautiful restaurants 

The restaurant became a fixture in the community, serving as a voting center, meeting place for city functions and a frequent location for weddings. 

Pepperdine associates dined at the restaurant, developing a relationship with Daniel. Eventually, they offered Daniel a position on Pepperdine’s Crest Advisory Board and Daniel obliged. Their relationship with Pepperdine continued with him and Luciana frequenting theater shows. 

Crest Advisory Board member Anne Payne recalled meeting Daniel for the first time when Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics. Payne had worked to organize the water polo events, which were to take place at Pepperdine, and needed banners for the events leading up to the matches. Payne approached Daniel about donating money for a banner, and he donated for two. 

The willingness to go the extra mile said everything about the Forges, Payne said. 

“That warm welcome has been apparent at the restaurant for so many years and has been an institution and in two languages at all times,” Payne said. “Always two kisses on the cheek…and always a feeling of home.” 

Vice Chancellor Claudia Arnold Preston credited them for gracing Malibu with its European hospitality. Daniel offered hugs to his Pepperdine friends when they entered the establishment, while Luciana would serenade them. 

“They opened their doors and their arms to our Pepperdine family over all the years,” she said.

Moving forward, Malibu Times Publisher Arnold York said the restaurant’s spirit remains. 

“A piece that was BeauRivage is gone from our lives. It’s gone from Malibu’s life. But it’s there in our hearts,” he said.