BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Stefano Fren and Nikolas Papoutsakis arrived in Guam in early June from Greece to prepare for the opening of the Baldyga Group’s restaurant in the complex undergoing renovation in Tumon, which will open its attractions in stages.
Since then, the two chefs have been preparing to open Anemos in late December. The restaurant will sit at the front of the complex, facing and abutting Pale San Vitores Road.
Its cuisine will be Mediterranean, reflecting not only Greek dishes, but those of Spain, Turkey, Italy and Lebanon, which Fren said are compatible. “For us, the Mediterranean food is one of the best and the most creative all over the world,” he said. “All these techniques have the benefit of healthy food and flavor. The taste is intense. You can’t say when you eat Mediterranean food it was flat.”
The pair — who have already worked as a team — were on-island as the kitchen took shape.
Chef Stefano Fren told the Journal, “It’s a perfect kitchen. The group did a great job.” Chef Nikolas Papoutsakis recognized preparing the kitchen “wasn’t easy. But I’m excited,” he said.
As for the timing of their arrival, what has preoccupied them the most is understanding what is available in the way of provisions in Guam, and what they prefer to order from elsewhere.
“That is one of the most important reasons why we came here months ahead,” Fren said.
Finding their way around wholesalers and markets led the pair to the conclusion that, “Guam has serious issues,” Fren said.
While quality eggplant is available in Guam, the tomatoes fall short. “Vanilla is also hard to find here,” he said. “Saffron is very rare. We have to find a way to bring it here.” Glucose will also have to be ordered for Greek deserts, Fren said.
But time has allowed them to find what is available and to plan what staples and ingredients they will import. “Step by step we are contacting vendors all over the world,” Fren said.
Like all top chefs, the pair have preferences for the quality of essential ingredients such as olive oil. “We find a mix here from Spain and Italy,” Fren said. How the oil travels is also important, he said. The olive oil will be imported from Miytilene in Greece. “It’s in the North, and known for its olive oil,” Papoutsakis said.
The chef’s found meat available in Guam is of a high standard.
“The meat — the beef — is good. The lamb from New Zealand we also like,” Fren said.
“We also like it in Greece, it’s one of the best all over the world.”
Some local fish do not lend themselves to Mediterranean cuisine, so sardines will be imported from the Philippines.
“Anything that requires a dough will be made from scratch,” Papoutsakis said.
While Anemos will offer pizza, it will be stone cooked. “It’s like a pizza flat bread,” Fren said. “It’s a different technique.”
As to the Anemos menu, Fren said, “We are close to finalizing it. We do trials, every day.”
The aim at Anemos is not only to reflect Mediterranean cuisine. “The people who come to visit us will have the authentic taste — and that is the challenge,” Fren said.
All aspects of the 2,270 square-foot restaurant design have been carefully selected to create a Mediterranean atmosphere, but also to take advantage of the climate. Anemos will offer a custom-built luxury roofed setting. In the case of rain, the sides will roll down and the air-conditioning will come on.
Initially the restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner, with future plans for late night and breakfast offerings.
Both chefs expect to train staff. Randolph Velasco, director of food and beverage for the Baldyga Group; said he anticipates Anemos requiring 12 to 15 kitchen staff. “For the front of the house — probably around the same number” he said. As to restaurant accomodation, he said, “The capacity for now is 80 covers.”
Various Greek wines will be available as well as Mediterranean liqueurs.
Fren is originally from Corfu and Papoutsakis from Athens. Both developed careers in the culinary profession and met while working on private yachts.
Mark Baldyga, CEO of the Baldyga Group; persuaded the chefs to come to the island. Papoutsakis said, “It was a big step for us to leave and come all the way to Guam.”
Fren said the process of entry to Guam — effectively the U.S., was smooth. “I think they understood we are known in Greece,” he said.
Both chefs are happy to be on-island. “The island is a wow by itself,” Fren said. “Everybody is so kind. They smile, and we feel very welcome here. That is something that helped us a lot.” Papoutsakis said the warm welcome helped them “not to get homesick.” mbj