September 1 , 2006, Volume 6 Number 35
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I have just returned from about 19 hours of travelling from Houston after attending my mom Toni's 80th Birthday. It was fun and well worth the jet lag I experienced when I arrived in Texas and the jet lag that's grogging me out now!
It's really great to be back to this magical island...for those who ever feel doubts about how special our island is, might I suggest you pick up a copy the July issue of Directions Magazine, the one graced by the beautiful smiling face of Carmen Leyva, owner of Carmen's Cha Cha Cha Mexican Restaurant. Carmen's success story is the featured interview in an article written by one of Guam's best writers, Frank Whitman. It is an evocative account of a determined young woman's vision to create a business, without the benefit of any capital, but with lots of chutzpah, moxie, and a "don't quit" attitude.
Having been in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, I could identify with and relate to so many things that Carmen talks about in the article, especially when it comes to service standards, which she holds quite highly. I truly believe that this article should be required reading for all those who want to go into the restaurant business as owners, managers, and as employees.
There are many valuable, real-life insights that Carmen shares, which I don't believe are considered often by those wishing to start in this highly demanding business, which has one of the highest failure rates in comparison to other businesses. I have done several reviews on Carmen's Cha Cha Cha and it's evident from my dining experiences that passion is one of the main ingredients in Carmen's recipe for success.
Con mucho gusto!
Ken, "The Guam Food Guy"
Visiting Saigon Chefs Create A Taste of Vietnam at Hyatt Regency Saipan
I was quite fortunate during my last Saipan visit to experience "A Taste of Vietnam", which was a two week promotion featuring the talents of two visiting chefs from the Park Hyatt Saigon. I had the pleasure to meet Nguyen Ngoc Hien, Chef de Cuisine, and his associate, Nguyen Thi Bich Vy, Demi Chef. It was their first time out of the country to do this kind of promotion and they were warmly welcomed by the people of Saipan who were lucky enough to savor the flavors of the many traditionally prepared Vietnamese dishes.
Among the buffet items served at Hyatt's Kili Terrace were fresh and fried lumpia with accompanying dipping sauces, a mesmerizing River Prawn Curry, Beef Ragout Vietnamese Style, BBQ Pork Spareribs with a lemongrass rub (which made them as tasty as they were tender and meaty!), Pan Fried Sea Bass Filet, Wok Fried Sea Crabs, Chicken Salad, Radish Salad, and Beef Salads, BBQ Skewered Chicken Wings seasoned with a spice blend I could eat all day, and a really delicious Pho Ga, the classic Vietnamese chicken soup with rice noodles, I added chili sauce and hoisin sauce to this to give me an ideal balance of sweet and hot - the rich broth was an elixir!
There were other foods and desserts, and it was well worth the $35 price tag. I hope that we on Guam will one day play host to these chefs...it's always good to diversify our palates and bring in talented chefs from various countries to share their cuisine.
Garlic House Dinner - New Menu Items Tantalize
We recently went to The Garlic House and were pleased to see some new menu items which we promptly tried. One of the items was the Mix Green Salad with Tuna which comes in two sizes - half size which is enough to serve one or two persons as an appetizer ($6.98) and the regular size ($11.98). This was nicely done, with fresh tuna drizzled with a vinaigrette, roma tomatoes, and bell peppers over a bed of lettuce. The other new dish we tried was the Garlic Shrimp appetizer (5 pcs/$9.98). We had them sauteed in the South American Style, which uses a spice blend similar to Chinese five-spice along with garlic oil. Other styles available for this appetizer, which is also served as an entree (you get more shrimp of course), are Spanish Style and Thai Style.
Another new entree is the Garlic Fried Chicken ($8.98), which is a lot of small chicken pieces dipped in a garlic flour batter and deep fried, then layered across a bed of lettuce. Sliced Roma tomatoes divide the chicken on the plate across from a sweet chili sauce boat and a pile of toasted garlic chips, which are potent, but good. You can squeeze the lemon slice over the chicken for a different twist. Also new to the menu is a 14 oz. (it's designated as 400 grams on the menu) T-Bone Steak Garlic House Style for $32.98.
Our final dish was the Garlic House Chicken Steak ($15.98), for which we selected the Garlic Ginger Sauce (the other choice is Herb Garlic Sauce). This is a very strong flavored dish, with garlic and ginger so strong you'll have to stop eating to catch your breath! True to its name, the Garlic House Chicken Steak comes with a pile of fried garlic chips, adding fuel to the garlicky fire you've already started. This amazing restaurant only gains in popularity - it's still an obscure curiosity but most definitely worth exploring.
Guy Buffet - You May Not Know His Name But You Know His Art
I so enjoyed a recent interview posted at our sister site, HawaiiDiner.com with world famous artist, Guy Buffet, that I wanted to share it with all of you. The story was written by Marianne Schultz and it gives such a rich insight to the life of this fascinating man. At 63 years of age, you really get the feeling that despite all of his accomplishements and accolades his adventures are just beginning. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
A Conversation with Guy Buffet - Marianne Chats with the Renowned Artist
Marianne Schultz [Artwork used courtesy of Guy Buffet. All rights reserved.]
"I will always return to Hawaii!" exclaims world-renowned artist Guy Buffet in a voice that resonates with memories of a place he dearly loves. This month he will move from Kapalua to Newport Beach, California; he will also spend time at his home in the South of France. Guy has been in Hawaii since the 1960's and has painted thousands of pictures of the land, sacred sites, hula, animals and sports. Although he is leaving Hawaii, he will still be represented by Lahaina Galleries, make periodic appearances and maintain his relationship with a place that has a special spot in his heart. [Painting: Hana Coast]
In the coming months he will enjoy time with his two sons in California, ride his horses and travel. Guy has traveled extensively his entire life, circling the globe many times. His new base in California will allow for frequent trips to Chicago - "I have a big following there and many, many friends" - and other mainland cities, "I cannot stay in one place for too long," he says, and he will enjoy the closer proximity from home to shows.
Guy has a huge following worldwide. Anyone who loves food and wine is likely to own at least one of his many licensed products, ranging from shoes, ties, shirts, kitchenware, books, calendars, and prints to wine - the 'Guy Buffet Wine Cellars'. Some of his most famous products were items produced for the culinary store Williams-Sonoma. "The plates with portraits of chefs were a big deal for me. Everything was a novelty and now the products have run their course. I have had products licensed for at least 10 years, which is a great run in the retail trade." These Williams-Sonoma Guy Buffet designed items are considered collectibles now with a simple six-piece coaster set which retailed for $20 a few years ago valued at $75 today. Despite the success of his licensed products his heart longed to return to an earlier love, publishing. He said it simply, "It is time to go back to publishing." [Painting: Beaujolais Nouveau]
Guy began publishing books in the 1960's, and is currently working on a new book that he expects to release in six months. It will be a combination of his artwork and a biography, "...from when I started painting up until now. My time in the (French) Navy as an artist, coming to the States and living in Hawaii".
To capture his amazing life in one volume seems impossible. He has been drawing and painting since childhood and grew up in a family who owned a restaurant in France. His father died when he was 11 and the family moved to a fishing harbor near St. Tropez. He began art school since his mother didn't have the means to send him to college. This led him to "...work as a busboy, waiter, the kitchen, the dining room...I KNOW THOSE JOBS!"
Following art school he joined the French Navy, where his artistic talent was recognized and he was named official artist. Guy went aboard the cruiser De Grasse for a worldwide tour of duty. Everything was new to him; the Navy "Changed my life, without it, I would have never left France. Who knows, maybe I would have stayed working in restaurants with a diploma to teach art, living on a miserable salary." Those restaurant jobs, combined with his childhood experiences, provided inspiration for his famous whimsical portraits of chefs, waiters, and restaurant scenes that so many fans love. "I was grateful that those jobs provided a way to make money fast enough to support myself," he remembers.
"I went back to France after the Navy  and the Cooke family [as in the kama'aina mercantile family] sent me a ticket to Hawaii with an offer of sponsorship, including room and board. I was 20 years old, doing my first show, and I have not stopped since." For the 20 years prior to developing his signature culinary themes, his art was inspired by Hawaii and French Polynesia. "I was known for that and it was hard to do anything else at that point," he explains. In 1983, Guy went back to France, met and married the future mother of his children, and began his culinary paintings. His father-in-law owned three restaurants. "I painted chefs, waiters, champagne bottles, and one thing led to another." He began doing special events, traveling with many commissions related to food and wine including being the official artist of famed champagne house, Perrier Jouet. Unfortunately, the constant traveling led to the end of his marriage some years later. [Painting: Champagne & Caviar]
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