The late John Ghoukassian – founder of Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach and Bistango Restaurant in Irvine – was given a Distinguished Citizen Award by the City of Irvine at the City Council meeting June 14
The City Council established the award and the Wall of Recognition located at the Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park in 2006. The Wall of Recognition program recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the city, establishing a foundation of excellence for future generations. It was created to be a symbol that embodies a spirit of activism, involvement, and pride representing what Irvine has become as a city.
“Our dad is watching over us right now and we know he is very proud of his Distinguished Citizen award at the Wall of Recognition. He must be smiling at us,” said Karyn Ghoukassian, John’s daughter. “From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank the City of Irvine for recognizing John’s accomplishments and for honoring him by placing his name on the Wall of Recognition at the Col. Bill Barber Memorial Park for all to see. We are very grateful on John’s behalf.”
John certainly deserves the accolades. He founded two of Orange County’s most popular restaurants. Bayside has become one of my favorite spots for a drink, a meal, and live music, especially the nights that Ron Kobayashi and Jerry Mandel are playing. It’s a favorite summer dining spot prior to attending the Hyatt Summer Concert Series, which starts up again in a few weeks.
Both Bistango and Bayside successfully navigated the pandemic challenges and continue to prosper.
When John Ghoukassian passed away last year, his family sent me background info on John, as well as their personal remembrances.
John Ghoukassian was an art collector, restaurateur, father and husband. He spent his life dedicated to the art of dining and pleasing all the senses – from the culinary team and cuisine, the interior décor, architectural foundation, to the museum-quality art installations at his restaurants and thriving live music scene.
With more than 50 years of experience as a restaurateur in the US and abroad, he was a man of strength, endurance, adaptation and innovation. He was not only an inspiration to his children, Marc and Karyn, and his wife, Diana, but to his extended family of Bistango and Bayside, as well as the community.
Having created two iconic dining and art destinations, his goal was to offer beautiful places where friends and family could share something beyond a meal – places where they could create lifelong memories and experiences.
John opened Bistango in 1987 in Irvine, after three years with the restaurant in Los Angeles. Within Bistango, he created a thriving art gallery space where both food, visual art and live music shine more than 30 years later.
He opened Bayside in 1999 alongside his son, Marc, building the restaurant from the ground up with an iconic Italian architect featuring a terraced patio and authentic Venetian gondola oar ceiling.
Bistango and Bayside were not John’s first forays into the restaurant business. Before moving to the United States, he ran several successful restaurants in Tehran, Iran.
In Orange County, John set his sights on creating a strong and resilient team, with his family always by his side. His employees were more than workers. They became an extended family, with many a part of Bistango and Bayside for decades.
John was an avid lover and supporter of the arts and live entertainment, as evidenced by the nightly live music at his restaurants. In addition, his family said John was a lover of fine cuisine and fine wines, and had a quest for being the best of the best in the world of cuisine.
John certainly achieved that goal, and his legacy lives on.