Honoring tradition, family at Kådu

LOCAL SOUPS TO GO: Lenny Fejeran is a cook and the concept developer at Kådu. Fejeran has been behind the popular restaurants Pika's Cafe and Kitchen Lingo. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

"The real experience is at home," says Lenny Fejeran, cook and concept developer at Kådu in Mangilao. "People in our generation are taking care of our kids, and we're also taking care of our parents or our grandparents, so a lot of the times we have to feed them and we end up getting fast food. ... It's a very individual thing ... there's not a lot of meals that involve bringing the family together like kådu does."

Fejeran's hope is that Kådu will mean feeding your family quickly can still be healthy, and that it will preserve your time around the table, too.

"I want to bring those traditions back to where you bring the food home, you get your kids, you get your parents and you eat all together at the same table – hopefully at the same table you grew up eating kådu at, too. And remembering those traditions and also starting new ones," he says.

By deconstructing kådu, Fejeran figured out how to make a soup that usually cooks for hours in just a few minutes, but without taking shortcuts. He's just smart about cooking each ingredient at the right time, for the right amount of time.

"I can't stay open eight hours and serve kådu like that fresh. ... There's no way possible," he says. "I had to break it down to a science and say, 'Okay my string beans only need to be cooked for two minutes, my cabbage only needs to be cooked for eight minutes.' ... It's come down to this, to where when you order a kådu from me, it's going to come out super fast, super hot and the meat's gonna be cooked perfectly and the vegetables gonna be cooked perfectly, and that's the goal every single time."

Getting started in Nåna's kitchen

In a way, Kådu is Fejeran's childhood reimagined. Growing up in a large family in Agat, Fejeran recalled how his grandmother and aunties were constantly cooking for a crowd.

"My dad had 14 brothers and sisters and all really good cooks, so we'd have these big parties and cook these big pots of kådu," he says – the kådu was what they ate while getting the actual fiesta dishes ready. Everyone had a role in his grandmother's kitchen, Fejeran says, himself included. It was there that he received his basic culinary education.

"It was a full-on commissary kitchen, bro, you should have seen the parties we had," he says, a smile spreading across his face. "That was my best training, this is where I get the advantage, and I didn't know this when I was little, right? ... I learned from them how to cook onions, how to use a knife, how to hold a knife properly, how to wash dishes, how to cook rice – all these basic things I was taught before I even got a job."

Fejeran says it was obvious he already knew his way around the kitchen by the time he took on his first restaurant jobs.

Eighteen years later, Fejeran is back in the kitchen and loving every minute of it.

'This is where I have fun'

"This is like frickin' riding a bike," he says. "This is so natural to me, like this is where I have fun. This for me is just pure love, pure love. Like work? This doesn't feel like work. I come here and I could make kådu all day."

And that he does. Each day Fejeran and his small kitchen staff – several of his cooks are women who have spent decades stewing the CHamoru comfort food for their own families – whip up eight different kinds of kådu and a few "grab-and-go" options such as ox tail tinaktak or chorizos pakpak, which Fejeran says is his favorite item at Kådu so far.

Available as a generous single serving for one to two people, or a family-size bucket that feeds up to four people, each kådu is packed with meat and veggies, and bursting with flavor.

Kådun Pika has already proven popular. With a strong, mouthwatering mix of salt and heat, Fejeran says the soup is best paired with a cold, crisp beer. Other soups – all of which are directly inspired by Fejeran's family kitchen – include Mangu, which blends a turmeric and coconut milk broth with chicken, papaya and lots of veggies; Hawaii-sourced binådu with suni, chotda and gollai (available Friday and Saturday only); and Gollai for those looking for a vegan option, loaded with local veggies and taro.

Each bowl of kådu is a labor of love, for the food itself and the values it represents. The restaurant was ultimately something Fejeran dreamed up for his own family, but also one he hopes will help other families, too.

"I wanted to create this restaurant for people like myself that have to take care of their kids, and also for people like my mom who had to take care of her parents, the elderly, and I wanted it to give another option for people that are in the same boat," he says. "I have three children and it's always hard trying to feed them something healthy at the end of a long day. We end up just – lack of options – going to fast food and eating stuff we don't feel good about. And really, what they want to be eating is this stuff."

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