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October 1, 2004, Volume 4 Number 40


Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

In my sophomore year of college I remember telling a professor that I needed to experience life's peaks and valleys so that I could truly relate to the "human conditions" best described by the great writers of the ages. Though my literary skills showed potential, I considered myself too young and inexperienced to write "truly well". I needed to have my heart broken as well as reach the pinnacle of elation, not just once, but perhaps several times and in different ways. I needed to run fast, jump high, scream loud, laugh hysterically, and cry hard tears. I needed to change my babies' diapers and feel a father's pride when my children said they loved me. I needed to hug my grandson. I needed to fall to the depths of despair and feel losses greater than words could express. I needed to be in love and to passionately embrace precious moments of bliss, as well as feel the anxiety of uncertainty. In the three decades that have passed since, my youthful wishes have borne more fruit than I could harvest, and I still have many fields to plow.

The recent, untimely passing of Chef Jeff Hill (seen on the far right) has affected me and countless others in ways that we are all still trying to wrap words around and tie a meaning to. Chef Jeff was a gift from God for all of us who knew him. Simple, unassuming, probably the most laid back of all the chefs I've met, Jeff easily shared his culinary knowledge and gave generously whenever he was asked. He "walked the talk" with students and peers, and dazzled appreciative diners who lined up at Manhattan Lounge's elaborate buffet table for Jeff's latest ethnic cuisine excursions. His affable grins and winning smiles were paydays for anyone receiving them. I will miss his unique way of saying "Hey Food Guy" when he'd call me on the phone. Sometimes he'd ask for my opinion about a menu he was preparing. He'd say, "Well, whaddya think?" I think I'll miss you, Chef Jeff. You represent our best. Adios, amigo. It's been a grand ride!

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

In Today's Issue:

  • Grillin' & Chillin' Contest Winners - Excitement, BBQ and Fun for All
  • American Cancer Society Gala Celebrates 35 Years Saturday October 2
  • Stay Healthy Wellness Programs - October Classes from SDA Wellness Center
  • Last Chance to Try Visiting Chef Arino's Unique Pastry Creations
  • Around Town - Sereno's Tapas Buffet, Yummy Tummy Restaurant, Big Tony's Pizza
  • Remembering Chef Jeff Hill - A Culinary Adventurer Gone Too Soon

Grillin' & Chillin' Contest Winners - Excitement, BBQ and Fun for All

Last Saturday's Grillin' & Chillin' Contest was a thrilling day for attendees and contestants alike, with Ypao Beach transformed into a smoke-filled eating place where Chicken Thighs, BBQ Ribs and Beef Skirt were grilled a variety of ways by 11 competing teams. Judges included media personalities, food service industry representatives, event sponsors, and military personnel. Team Adobo, captained by Jojo Santo Tomas, won the $1500 Grand Prize, along with the People's Choice Award and finished First in the Beef Category for a Pesto Beef creation that wowed judges and audience alike. Team Adobo's members included Janae Certeza, Mike Rozanski and Hayato Navarette, who are Jojo's class mates in G.C.C.'s Culinary Academy.

Other First Place Category Winners were Team Cost U Less headed by captain Dio Sapinosa in the Chicken category and Team La Modong, headed by Sam Choy's Sous Chef, John Fernandez, for their Baby Back Ribs. Nine of 11 teams finished in the top 3 positions which entitled each team to win a Gas BBQ Grill. These teams included the Westin, All In, Hotel Santa Fe, SFS, Yum Yum Grillers, and Got Gaming. Congratulations to these team participants, many of whom we expect to see at next year's competition.

Budweiser was the main sponsor for this first-time event, with other sponsors including the Micronesian Chefs' Association, Guam Hotel Restaurant Association, SPPC Circle K, Guam Visitor's Bureau, Triple J Five Star, Quality Distributors, Lueng Fung, 105.5 The Rock, and K-57. The MCA spear-headed this event as an effort to raise funds for the GCC Culinary Program. Chairman of this year's event was the late Jeff Hill, Executive Chef at the SandCastle, who died in a diving accident the day following the Grillin' & Chillin' Contest. It is expected that Chef Jeff will be memorialized in future Grillin' & Chillin' Contests as a tribute to his leadership and passion for the culinary arts.

American Cancer Society Gala Celebrates 35 Years Saturday October 2

This Saturday the American Cancer Society Guam Unit will be celebrating 35 yeas of "Hope, Progress and Answers on Guam" at a gala ball at the Hyatt Regency Guam. The attire is formal, with guests being treated to a gourmet dinner, silent auction, and door prizes. Donations to attend are $100 a person, with tickets available at the ACS Guam Unit office. Call the Society at 477-9451/2, or Rose Marie Cruz at 477-7323, or Marie McElligott at 475-3394 for more information.

Stay Healthy Wellness Programs - October Classes from SDA Wellness Center

The Seventh Day Adventist Wellness Center has lined up some excellent programs promoting health awareness during the month of October. They are offering a Hypertension and Cholesterol Clinic the first four Fridays in October (1, 8, 15 and 22) at the Wellness Center in Harmon, from 11am - 1pm. For fees and other information, call 647-7520. The Wellness Center is also conducting its Cooking School from 6 - 8pm on Monday October 4 and 11. Fee is $25 per person. You can either call the Center or e-mail them for more details at wellness@guamsda.com.

Around Town - Sereno's Tapas Buffet, Yummy Tummy Restaurant, Big Tony's Pizza

Sereno's Ristorante Italiano has recently launched a Tapas Lunch Buffet every Wednesday - Friday, from 11:30am - 2pm. Tapas are Spanish appetizers, so it will be interesting to see the food selection they'll serve. The price is $10 (+sc) per person for the Tapas buffet only, and $14.50 (+sc) for Tapas and a Pasta Selection. Call 646-2300 for more information.

Yummy Tummy Restaurant, serving oriental cuisine, has just opened in Yigo. It is located on Marine Drive about 1/4 mile north of Yigo Pay-Less and nearly across the street from the Shell Gas Station. Yummy Tummy sells Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Vietnamese dishes, with prices ranging from $4.99 (Fresh Lumpia) to $12.99 (Fried Crab with Ginger). Walnut Shrimp, Salt & Pepper Shrimp, and Shrimp Tempura are all $8.99. Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken Adobo, Braised Tofu, Combination Fried Noodle, Fried Bok Choy, Chicken with Lemon Grass, and Won Ton Soup are all $5.99. Call 653-0163 for take-out.

Big Tony's Pizza, located in Yigo's Bomber's Tavern, has arrived on the local food scene and has made a big impression on customers with authentic Italian and American-style food folks have been craving for a long time. Tony' pizza is not a pizza...it's a pie! I sampled a slice the other night that has fresh toppings galore including hand-crafted pika sausage meat, with an awesome crust that'll past the scrutiny of a Sicilian grandmother. I had a piece of their pastrami which was superb by any standard, and if you're looking for a genuine Meat Ball Sub Sandwich ($8.50), you just go to Tony's and they'll take care of you. I sampled a meat ball that was as good as Tony said it would be and as good as some of the best I've had. Tony "Big Tony" Connelly and partner Ed (K-57 on the Go) Davis have hit a bulls-eye by serving hearty, truck-stop sized meals. A $7.50 Burger is made with ground Certified Angus Beef and is rumored to rival Jan Z's. The Hawg Wing Sandwich is a new interactive sandwich sensation packed with mouth-watering goodness. Sunday breakfast offers an old favorite, S.O.S., which when topped with an over-easy egg and Tabasco, is the "cat's meow". This is a place I'm looking forward to reviewing. Call 653-1456.

Last Chance to Try Visiting Chef Arino's Unique Pastry Creations

You have until Saturday October 2 to get over to the Hilton's Caffe Cino, Islander Terrace, or Roy's Restaurant to avail yourself of some heavenly pastry creations made by visiting Pastry Chef Takashi Arino, from the Hilton Odawara Resort & Spa. I had another opportunity to sample Chef Arino's inspired desserts last week during a brief meeting with him and some of Hilton Guam Resort & Spa's staff. He has spent 17 years refining his skills. I consider his work to be world class, and the pastries to be inspired art pieces rather than just dessert. He has brought over 80 special ingredients with him to prepare the selections he's made. This week he has introduced some new pastries, with one (a Green Tea, Red Bean and Apricot Tart) I've promised myself to eat this week!

Remembering Chef Jeff Hill - A Culinary Adventurer Gone Too Soon

The night before Saturday's Grillin' and Chillin' Contest, I was sitting in Chef Jeff Hill's SandCastle kitchen office going over details for the judging panel for the next day's competition. We were listening to Chef Jeff's favorite radio station, www.wwoz.org, which is a New Orleans Blues station that he had streaming live through his computer. He tipped me off to this station a few weeks earlier and told me that listening to this music was one of the ways he kept his cool while dealing with the challenges of running a major kitchen operation. Jeff was always cool. I never saw him lose his temper...he was great company and a wonderful man. Jeff, however, was a masterful chef, and when he died while diving the Sunday after the Grillin' and Chillin' Contest, he was at his prime and burning a path to greater achievements.

There are many people who knew Chef Jeff Hill (Jeff's family name is Hilgenberg but he used Hill professionally), and it is amazing how many friends he had made during his short 10 month stay on Guam. As shown in his Chef's Profile at the GuamDiner.com website, Jeff's "culinary adventure began in Southeast Asia as a galley hand on the passenger ship M.V. Doulous sailing to Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Malayasia, Singapore and Thailand. Here he mastered peeling potatoes and making mayonnaise and marinara. He continued his climb up the culinary ladder under the direction of French Master Chef Joel Gourio DeBourgioniere at the Provincial Hotel in New Orleans." Chef Jeff learned a lot in his short culinary career, quickly absorbing cuisine styles and preparation techniques that usually take years to master. His melon and fruit carvings drew praise from his peers and the Thai community.

Near the top of Jeff's office window facing out into the kitchen were color print-outs of the two reviews I had done on Chef Jeff and the SandCastles' New Dinner Show, Magic on Ice. For those of you who missed these write ups, I want to share excerpts from the first that described my first impressions of Chef Jeff that only deepened and broadened with time.

"New Sandcastle Chef Dazzles Palates with Extraordinary Happy Hour Spreads at Manhattan Bar

The Thursday Night Happy Hour at SandCastle's Manhattan Bar is a special culinary destination and has been for a few years during the tenure of several chefs, notably former Executive Chef, D.L."Chef Deborah" Walshinsky who recently left Guam. Fortunately, her successor has arrived and is "cooking up a storm of great eats" that has impressed diners so much that some have been seen "licking" their plates clean! Executive Chef Hill has been on Guam for less than a month and is already making waves (a few of which he sorely regrets experiencing since he was recently injured in a boating accident). Although Jeff is a low-key, unassuming kind of guy, he is a real go-getter who participated in the Jingle Bell Fun Run within a week of arriving and is an avid diver who loves Guam's waters. His passion for things physical carries through to his culinary creations.

Jeff has a talent for food sculpting, as was evident from his watermelon carving that decorated the elaborate buffet spread at Manhattan. Before I go further, you should know that The Manhattan Bar is not a "dinner" place. The Thursday Night Happy Hour features a different menu and food theme each week, and the food is meant more to be sampled as appetizers (which we all know can easily become a meal). There is no cost for the buffet, but there is a two drink minimum per guest. Manhattan has a private club ambiance with an elegance and class befitting its Big City namesake - one can't help but appreciate the upscale appointments and cushy lounge chairs - it makes you want to sip a dry martini or savor a robust cabernet while listening to soft jazz and chatting with friends. If you are at the Manhattan Bar, you have "arrived".

Back to the food! The menu at last Thursday's Happy Hour featured tastes of New Orleans, with cold appetizers like sweet, New Zealand Oysters on the Half Shell, and home-made pasta and potato salads. The Chicken & Seafood Gumbo was awesome (did I tell you that Chef Jeff came from "Awesome" Austin Texas?) I did have 3 bowls of this delicious classic, and I could taste all the genuine seasonings and flavors that make gumbo a favorite for many.

Another dish we loved was his Red Beans & Rice, which is a southern comfort dish...the kind of hearty food that "sticks to your ribs" (I wonder if that food aphorism is politically or even dietically correct? - no matter, its darned good eatin'!)

Also in the lineup was a terrific Jambalaya, another New Orleans tradition. However, my personal favorite was Chef Jeff's Shrimp Etouffee, which I considered to be "off the charts"! It was just like eating in New Orleans, with rich pepper and vegetable flavors blended with juicy shrimp pieces.

The "Finishing Touches" that Chef Jeff prepared as desserts included a sumptuous Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with an Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce...just decadently delicious! His Pecan Pralines were to my liking - not too sweet nor sugary...ideally blended so you could taste the pecans.

As I said earlier, the buffet menu changes each week, and you can view each week's offering at the Dinner Specials area of the GuamDiner.com. Next week's 11 theme will be "The Islands of Hawaii", and you'll be treated to Lomi Lomi Salmon, Roast Kalua Suckling Pig, Huli Huli Chicken, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. December 18th's theme will be "Taste of the Rio Grande", and will feature Quesadillas, Pico de Gallo, Chile Con Carne, Beef Enchiladas con Mole, Fajitas, Baby Back Ribs, and Peach Cobbler.""

These special food experiences created by Chef Jeff continued nearly every week and he even shared his talents with our neighbors to the north when he visited Saipan in February 2004 for a Mardi Gras weekend food festival held at the Hyatt Regency. "Some of the dishes included Louisiana Turtle Soup, Chicken & Seafood Gumbo, Jambalaya, Shrimp Etouffee, Corn Machchoux, Oysters Rockefeller, Bananas Foster, and King Cake," according to an article in the Marianas Variety (9 March).

The article quoted Hill, "These are typical New Orleans dishes, very delicious. Some were altered just a bit to fit the islands. For example, the land turtle meat usually found in the Louisiana soup was replaced with veal - still very tasty." Jeff also made King Cakes, which are traditional baked desserts that were covered in the brilliant green, gold and purple colored icings of Mardi Gras. "'I placed a plastic Hello Kitty doll inside one of the pieces as it is tradition for the one who receives it to throw the next King Cake party,'laughs Hill, "'Just a bit of fun.'"

That's how Chef Jeff was...always having fun and always brimming with a sense of adventure...just waiting to start doing something new, exciting, and different. Although Chef Jeff carried himself as just an ordinary guy, he was everything but...he was "extraordinary", and he will be missed by family, friends, his kitchen staff, the SandCastle team, students, his peers and colleagues in the MCA, and essentially everyone with whom he came in contact. All were made better from knowing him. That's what a great man does in this life. That's our dear and beloved friend, Chef Jeff.

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

Don't miss this week's features at GuamDiner.com!

You can find Guam Food Guy links and reviews at the following sites:

www.guamdiner.com

www.k57.com

www.guam.net

www.guamcell.net

www.mymicronesia.com

www.guam-online.com

Copyright 2004 Guam Diner