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A chat with new New Zealander Barett St. Germain

Submitted by on 1, February 23, 2010 – 5:50 am6 Comments

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.

6 Comments »

  • jennifer jacobs says:

    Glad to hear you will be coming back. Although my 92 year old father & I don’t eat out much anymore as he has moved into assisted living. We still go out a little & like to have a place to bring family.
    I hope you are able to fix the lights to even them out & keep the prices about the same as they were edging towards $$$. The food was always good, occasionally great. Background music is nice, but it should be in the background. One does not need to shout over the top. You will need to decide whether you want a fine dining or a Bar there’s a conflict.
    Tell Clive my Dad’s still kick’in!

  • Gary E. Moats says:

    Hi Jennifer, I miss you and Dad SOO much. You were my top favorite customers. You Don’t even know how much the staff tried to keep the place going on our own. I still have the Kiwi bookmark he gave me and treasure it greatly. Wish I was able to serve you now, but it doesn’t look like they want any of the old staff back without having to reapply for their jobs. Just know I treasured you and David’s visits(when he wasn’t bitching TOO much, LOL!!) Give him my love.

    Gary E. Moats

  • chris says:

    Hey Gary, It’s Chris , one of your former regular customers ( sister Susan, kids Alyssa n Dominic- u know, they always ordered the “green thing ” n you gave them extra cherries….we’ll effing miss you Gary, haven’t been in much anyway lately because the place was just getting worse…ya know….take care mate.

  • Gary E. Moats says:

    Hey Chris, yes I know who you are. I was wondering what happened to you guys?!!?
    Thanks for the caring sentiments, you guys think we are just waiters, but we really do care about you and worry when you disappear. I worried about you and thought maybe you had moved away, I know Susan did. I hope I always gave you good service, I tried to, no matter what. Sometimes I just had to apologize too much because of the timing of the food. Glad to know you and the kids are well, I always remember Dom was so shy about ordering but you made him strong in ordering the fish n chips!! Hope the dance studio is going strong!!!!

  • chris says:

    Hey Gary,
    It would be cool if you came back to the NZ, I know a lot of people liked you. I’m sure it was frustrating working there, it was frustrating being a regular and wanting things to be better……I’m gonna give it another shot with the new owner. Susan is still in Ohio, and Hatin Dayton ….she’ll be back ….take care and best wishes in whatever you do in life ,
    Chris

  • Sharyn Condon says:

    Hey there could you please on a message to Clive to say hi an old friend Sharyn Condon, in New Zealand. My e-mail address is above.

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