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Óscar Molina. Ode to Ibiza

Óscar Molina. Ode to Ibiza

Óscar Molina © ffmag

With patience, ambition and perseverance, Óscar Molina has been running the kitchen of the Ibiza Gran Hotel for 15 years. Inside the luxurious establishment is its protégé, La Gaia. What began as the hotel’s lobby bar has now become one of the great gastronomic temples of the Pityusic Islands. One Michelin star and two Repsol stars only serve to back this up. Grateful for everything Ibiza has given him, Óscar Molina pays his own particular tribute to the island through his cuisine, placing emphasis on local produce—and its producers—and salvaging flavours in danger of extinction. La Gaia’s food is a true declaration of love for Ibiza.

 

How would you weigh up this first year after being awarded your Michelin star?
It’s been crazy. Above all, for how customers have responded. The restaurant has been full every day and that is amazing. And then all the trips we have done to speak about what we do and gastronomy in Ibiza… It’s been non-stop.

How has your life changed personally and professionally?
Basically, I have more work. I don’t think there has been any other change. I’m the same person, I still have the same people around me. But, obviously, I’m very excited and eager to keep on reaping the rewards.

And now I imagine enjoying your free time has become even more important. What do you like to do outside of the kitchen?
I still have the same hobbies as usual. I do a lot of sport. I really like padel, cycling, running, going to the gym… For me, sport is a great outlet. And the little free time I have is for my family.

Gastronomic menu. La Gaia

Gastronomic menu © L. Failla

At what point are you at in terms of your cooking and what are the main changes that have happened this year?
There haven’t been any major changes, but we are more committed to the region. Ibiza has given us everything we are today, and one way of responding to the region and the people of Ibiza is by speaking about how good it is to eat and live here. And that is what La Gaia’s menu is trying to convey. We want to talk about the land, the farmers, the fishing, to speak out about situations such as the loss of almond trees or the state of posidonia...

What local ingredients feature on La Gaia’s menu?
We use prawns, peas, lamb, artichokes... and also Ibizan chicken: a product that we are trying to salvage, because it is very different from others due to its size, its intense flavour and its very meaty texture.

What are the menus like this year at La Gaia?
This year we have kept the two menus. We have the Tanit menu, featuring all the dishes that have been leaving their mark at La Gaia. And new dishes are included in the Posidonia menu, where you can see all the work we have been developing over the winter.

One of the things La Gaia has been committed to for several years are the menus created alongside other chefs. What guest chefs have you had and will you have this year?
This season we have several collaborations planned, not just at La Gaia but also at The Grand Breakfast. For breakfast we have had Olivier Fernández, one of the best pastry chefs in Spain, who also gave a masterclass to our team. It was a real luxury to be able to learn from someone like him. We will also have David Gil, who has published the ElBarri dessert book together with Albert Adrià. At La Gaia, we have had Andreu Genestra (one Michelin star and one Michelin green star) and we will have Pablo González (two Michelin stars and three Repsol suns). In the end it’s all about sharing with each other and enjoying what we do.

Jonatan Yelamos

Jonatan Yelamos © L. Failla

What would you recommend we eat at each time of the day at the Ibiza Gran Hotel?
I don’t know what I would eat but I would definitely go to all the restaurants. I think the breakfast we serve is really spectacular. It’s the kind of breakfast you can eat leisurely for two hours. It’s wrong for me to say, but I don’t think you will find anything like it. And at the Pool Restaurant, in addition to the gastronomy, you can enjoy the swimming pool, which is amazing. There, it’s a bit simpler but very fresh and with familiar flavours, which envelop diners. Then, of course, dinner at La Gaia and then Casino de Ibiza to top it all off.

I think the breakfast we serve is really spectacular. (...) I don’t think you will find anything like it

 

Where do you think the island is at in terms of gastronomy?
I think the fact I travel so much allows me to see it from a different perspective. Ibiza has evolved a lot over the last few years. The “problem” is that Ibiza’s entertainment is the best in the world and that overshadows everything. We are having a hard time. Ibiza has everything it needs to be a gastronomy powerhouse but we aren’t there yet. There is still a lot of work to be done by us chefs on the island. We have to go out and tell people what is being done here. And we have the responsibility to make sure that when people come to Ibiza, they leave with the best taste in their mouths.

Does having a Michelin star make you immune to the problem of staff shortages on the island?
Of course we are having problems with this, like everyone else in Ibiza. Because La Gaia is one thing, a place where it’s true that we receive a lot of CVs. It’s a very specific type of person: highly-motivated professionals, gastronomy lovers…
It’s a big problem, but I’m grateful to be able to rely on people in my team such as Jonatan Yelamos, Paco Alcahud and David Ruano, who are the structure behind all this.

La Gaia Ibiza team

Team © L. Failla

What future plans do you have for La Gaia?
We are immersed in a major thinking of the La Gaia concept, which involves a lot of investment. It’s a project that will take time, but we have been working on it since last year. We are going to have a large R&D department, a kitchen with a very large capacity and which, on a technological level, is going to be amazing, with technology that will allow us to be more sustainable. The project is being overseen by Sandra Tarruella, which did Celler de Can Roca. It’s going to be a spectacular space. It will be another step towards ensuring our growth. La Gaia started as a lobby bar with a bar and four tables and now it is set to become one of Europe’s high-level restaurants gastronomically speaking. I think we can have the best restaurant in the Balearic Islands.

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