A chat with new New Zealander Barett St. Germain
Anyone who has strolled past the corner of Central and Webster lately has probably noticed the work-in-progress that is to be the new New Zealander. Word of what’s to come has bubbled up on the Internet, through comments appended to blog posts and news articles here and elsewhere on the fate of the venerable hangout. Last week, I caught up with the restaurant’s new owner, Barett St. Germain, in person.
“There’s a million things to do,” St. Germain said Friday, the day after he signed the lease to take over the New Zealander. He said he’s hopeful he can have the restaurant open again sometime in March.
The restaurant will have a revitalized interior, some new dishes on the menu and new staff – save founder Clive Hitchens, who will remain as chef. St. Germain’s wife, Hadia, will handle the restaurant’s day-to-day operations.
St. Germain, who came to Alameda at 18 with the Navy and never left, said he’d originally been looking for a place to set up a wine bar when Hitchens approached him about buying the restaurant. St. Germain and his wife dined often at the New Zealander, which sits near their home, and they and Hitchens had become friends.
St. Germain said he tried, unsuccessfully, to set up shop at the Port of Oakland, Berkeley and on Piedmont Avenue before he began considering Hitchens’s offer. He said the businesses that preceded the New Zealander in its spot had come and gone, but he was impressed with what Hitchens, who was once honored as New Zealand’s chef of the year, had achieved.
“Clive got the right idea,” St. Germain said.
This past weekend he said he’d be bringing in a crew to deep-clean the restaurant’s kitchen, and he has ordered new tables and chairs. But the building will remain as-is, right down to the restaurant’s white-tile floor.
We’ll keep you posted on the grand reopening. Until then, you can keep track of the restaurant’s progress on the blog they have set up to release all the details (they’ve got a Facebook page too). And for the history of the restaurant and Hitchens, click here.