Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 18 Jul 2019 12am







    Tuesday, July 16, 2019-6:36:25A.M.






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Creating culture on a plate

EXECUTIVE Chef Joseph Deleon Guerrero is bringing an unprecedented and refreshing approach to Chamorro cuisine. Having attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York and working at a 3 Michelin Star restaurant called the Inn at Little Washington, Chef Joe has returned to Saipan armed with 15 years of culinary experience and a higher level of culinary knowledge and skills. He is the first Chamorro to have attended and graduated the Culinary Institute of America.

Executive Chef Joseph Deleon GuerreroExecutive Chef Joseph Deleon Guerrero

“We are preparing Chamorro food on a higher level of cuisine, incorporating local flavors into dishes with French technique,” says Executive Chef Joe.

While Chef Joe was training at the Inn at Little Washington under Executive Chef Patrick O’ Connellin, the Inn added a coveted third star, achieving the highest Michelin rating possible, and making it the first restaurant in the Washington area to do so.

Chef Joe and John Lee, the founder of Cha Cafe, discussed the possibility of opening a restaurant together back in 2012. While John Lee attended law school in New York and business school in Germany, Chef Joe attended the Culinary Institute of America, hoping that their goal would come together. And indeed it did.  

Cha Bistro, dubbed a Chamorro-inspired French Bistro, opened a few weeks ago. It is now the talk of the town and earned stellar reviews on its originality, ambience, and simply, on its good food.

“John is a very good friend of mine; we met six years ago through a common friend. At that time, he was just starting Cha Cafe in a hole in the wall. He had asked me for some help making Rota Sweet Potato Fries. But instead, we were lucky to have become such good friends.” Chef Joe says.  

“He let me stay at his apartment in New York while I waited to start school at the Culinary Institute of America. It was my first time going to NY, and it was winter. We always stayed close, so it was a no-brainer for both of us. Originally, I did not plan to go back to Saipan. I was eager to stay on the East Coast, but John persuaded me that we should open a restaurant together just as we talked about years ago. It made sense and here we are. We’re both happy to make a difference here at home.”

“When you go to a Thai restaurant you have a Thai lady cooking for you, when you go to a Korean restaurant you have a Korean grandma in the kitchen, so here, we are able to really taste what Chamorro food is,” he smiles.

The food is certainly Chamorro, but one cannot help notice the beautiful plating and the top-notch level of cooking. The signature red rice plates as well as the Panini, soups, and salads all are unique and tasty. Chef Joe also incorporated authentic Rota Sweet Potatoes. He has also created Finadeni Gravy and incorporated that into dishes, providing an incentive way of leveling up the island’s favorite food in a soulful way.

Cha Bistro is located on the second floor of Cha Cafe in Garapan. It is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Weekends Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

After this Mother’s Day, Cha Bistro will also be open for dinner from Thursdays to Sundays from 6 p.m. to 9 p/m. Chef Joe plans to do a more elaborate dinner, incorporating Chamorro inspiration and local produce.

Cha Cafe & Bistro is located on Beach Road, at the corner of Garapan tourist district. For more information or reservations, contact 233-2421.