Ana Jiménez, chef Quimera restaurant. Where sustainability comes in a thousand and one different flavours
Set in a stunning location in El Estany des Peix, the Hostal La Savina restaurant, Quimera, proves an irresistible temptation to lovers of good food. The chef, Ana Jiménez (who in 2014 received the first Michelin star ever to be awarded in the Pitiusa Islands) has created a menu that pulls together all her culinary expertise and experience: from the plains of La Mancha to her beloved Mediterranean. Also the holder of a richly deserved Repsol Guide Sol [Sun], Quimera impresses with its increasing focus on sustainability. So what is its secret? The dominance of locally-produced ingredients; ‘happy’ fish and meat, and a reduction in the amount of protein on the menu, with greater prominence given to vegetables and fruit grown organically on Formentera.
How is the season going for you?
Very well. We’re very enthusiastic and very happy. With lots of new touches. I am super happy. And looking forward to a good season.
How have you developed personally and professionally since you started at Quimera?
I’ve been running Quimera since 2017. In professional terms, I’ve developed my ability to work with the highest quality ingredients. It has been a highly rewarding experience. I have a restaurant where I can make great use of zero-miles products. I’ve also developed in the sense that I listen more closely to my customers. At the same time, I’m managing to convince my customers to accept lots of changes. And, of course, I’ve developed to be an all-round chef, to be an executive chef. That has been an extremely positive development for Quimera. We all know that a chef’s work is exhausting. It can cause problems in your private life, and this change has made things so much better. I get tired mentally, but not physically. Being mentally and physically tired is disastrous for your personal development. Being well on a personal level helps your professional development.
How do you feel in this new position of executive chef that you’ve just mentioned?
Very happy. It wasn’t easy at first, because I find it difficult to delegate, and that’s a problem. But over the winter, I’ve worked really hard on learning to delegate, and building a team that is ready to take on anything when I’m not in charge. And that has been very rewarding. On the other hand, I miss the cooking. But I can see the progress we’ve made, and what we can achieve with me having more time, and I’m very happy.
How do you get on with your team?
I’m really pleased with the team I have. This year, they’re all new. I spent all winter working with them online, and to be honest, I’m super proud of them.
What will customers see that’s new this year at Quimera?
I’m working more and more towards sustainability. I think everyone is doing the same now. We’re working more and more towards using sustainable ingredients. We’re focusing more on using vegetables; we’re bringing protein down to 30% or 40% of the menu — that will be a great achievement for me. And that is the goal we’ve set ourselves. Our tasting menu has evolved somewhat, and has a much lower protein content. We finish with home-made petit fours, and the ingredients are of the finest quality. And I always say, “If we’re going to use protein, let it be happy protein”. We try, as far as is possible, to work with local ingredients of the highest quality. We want our customers to understand that with ingredients derived from plants we can express ourselves and produce amazing flavours. And ultimately, we hope to convince everyone that this is the way forwards. We also have the sunset session: with a selection of tapas that are of the same quality as the restaurant meals, but served in a less formal atmosphere. And with livelier music...
I’m working more and more towards sustainability. We’re working more and more towards using sustainable ingredients
What will be the star products on Quimera’s menu this season?
Seasonal vegetables, which are one of the pillars of sustainability. And protein supplied by fish from Formentera. We also have cod, Galician Rubia sirloin steak... The star products will be those of the best quality, and especially vegetables. In fact, I have some dishes made exclusively from one raw ingredient, such as leeks, or pumpkins, and the response from customers has been super positive.
Do you think customers are aware of the issue of sustainability?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We are getting a really good response. Yes, I think they are aware. We’re moving along hand in hand. On a personal level, too, I think people are becoming more aware. And that is helped when they see that here we have all these wonderful products. And not just here on the islands. Over the whole country. We have a massive range of sustainable options.
Do you believe there are restaurants that claim to be very sustainable, when in fact they are not?
Unfortunately, there is that kind of posturing — you find it throughout life. I think it’s inevitable. But I think people should not be made to pay for the sins of others. Most people are doing it properly. I believe we’re on the right track.
What are you most proud of?
Of my progress, and of how the hostal has progressed, along with Quimera. It’s one of the things I find most rewarding.
Do you ever think of the future, and where you see yourself professionally a few years from now?
I’m not a person who thinks about the future. I think about the present, the day-to-day. I don’t know whether that’s a fault. I suppose that sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. The problem is that, if I start thinking about the future, I’m apt to forget the present. For me, the important thing is to go on developing day by day. And to enjoy every moment.
At what stage would you say the Islands are currently, gastronomically speaking?
In terms of gastronomy, there has been huge progress. In fact, the outstanding feature of the islands right now is the development of the gastronomic scene. The arrival of well-known chefs has helped turn Formentera into a gastronomic destination. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it has the positive effect that people come to the island with clearer ideas. Previously, people used to come to enjoy the island and to eat its four typical dishes, but now they come with a list of the restaurants they want to visit. That has pushed us into the developing the dishes we’ve been offering here for many years. It is a push in the right direction. It makes me happy that people are so keen to sit at a table and enjoy themselves. I see a lot of interest around the tables: diners ask lots of questions. I love it when a customer makes a nice comment. Not just for myself, but for the team. It’s very rewarding and motivating. I even welcome the negative comments, as I think they help us to improve — and we do need to listen to our customers.