Óscar Molina. A star is born

Óscar Molina. A star is born

Óscar Molina © ffmag

Since 2008, Óscar Molina has been executive chef at Ibiza Gran Hotel. He has spent years perfecting his most personal project, La Gaia. His trademark is honest cooking with total respect for the product and pure flavours, making the most of everything Ibiza has to offer in each season of the year. The perfect fusion of haute cuisine and artistic expression, using the finest local produce. A true journey for the five senses. The winner of two Guía Repsol suns and, since 2021, a Michelin star, Molina believes he owes everything to his father, “his greatest role model in the kitchen”.


 

Congratulations on your Michelin star. Do you think it came at the best possible moment?
I don’t think there’s ever a right moment. At the end of the day, we work to satisfy our customers. And for our own satisfaction. The star is the result of that work. It came when it had to come. I don’t know if it should have come earlier or later, I don’t think that’s for me to decide.

Atún rojo curado

Bluefin tuna © Luana Failla

What has the award meant to you?
It means connections. A reward for all the effort and work. Especially coming from such a prestigious guide. The team is really happy, and I’m happy with them.

What percentage of work, luck and talent do you think is needed to get to this point?
If there’s one thing about La Gaia, it’s that it never rests. It’s been the constancy, the continuous work, continuous improvement... The secret is to chase your dream and have plenty of allies: lots of people who help you to achieve it.

Looking back, at when you started cooking, did you ever imagine you’d get here?
I started cooking because of my father, who was a chef. He was very geeky, just like I am now, or even more so. At the time, I didn’t understand gastronomy the way I do today. I had other priorities: girls, partying, motorbikes... Like all young people. This ‘monster’ was created over time.

Guiso de guisantes de Ibiza

Ibizan green pea stew © Luana Failla

How have you coped with the huge amount of media attention in the last few months?
Well, this is all very recent, so I still don’t have much of a reference point. There’s been a surge of attention, to put it one way. I think it’ll pass. Right now, it’s the latest thing, so it’s normal. We’re aboard a train called Ibiza and it’s going like the clappers. Today’s it’s me, but tomorrow it could be Paco at Etxeco, José at Es Ventall... Or any of them, they do a great job and I’m sure their time will come.

We’re aboard a train called Ibiza and it’s going like the clappers

What are you aiming for after the star?
To keep on improving. But not because of the star, but because that’s what we did before. We started as a lobby bar and have kept on growing until, today, we have a famous gourmet restaurant. So, we’re not going to change a formula that has worked.

What new things will we see at La Gaia this year?
We always work on two completely different menus. We have Tanit, which is a journey through the dishes that we’ve liked the most, or that have most impressed our customers. We also want things to be seasonal, and change the menu four or five times during the season. And we’ve got a new concept, the Posidonia menu, which is all completely new: we’ll use new products, new techniques... We’ll try to adapt to our cooking style and the land here, above all. This year we’ve got our own kitchen garden where we’ll grow produce for ourselves. We have an idea of what we want to do, but don’t know how the land will respond. We’re got to be completely on the ball and very flexible.

This year we've got our own kitchen garden where we’ll grow produce for ourselves

How important is the wine menu at La Gaia and what are the pairing menus like?
The wine menu at La Gaia is the best way to harmonise our dishes so that diners have the best experience possible. Pairings include local wines, other pairings by contrast, and of course, the best Spanish and international wines.

I’ve heard about a big change that will happen at La Gaia in 2023... Can you give us a clue?
La Gaia has grown in line with the possibilities it has in terms of space. We were in an open, spacious lobby bar, in a spectacular hall. But it was also a bit impersonal. Now we’re here, we think we can keep on growing but, to take a bigger leap, we need to improve the infrastructure and prepare for the experience. I’ll just say that what we’re going to do in 2023 will be unique on the island.

Espuma de flores

Flower foam © Luana Failla

What other culinary surprises and innovations are you preparing at Ibiza Gran Hotel?
Last year we fully converted the Pool Restaurant and gave it a more Mediterranean concept. This year, we’re going to explore that a lot further. Our breakfasts have had two difficult years. For two years, we’ve had to adapt our amazing breakfast to the situation caused by the pandemic. This year is going to be the top year for breakfast at Ibiza Gran Hotel. We’re going to do everything we did back in 2019, plus all the work we did in 2020 but couldn’t show off due to the circumstances. We’re going to go full guns. I think that breakfast this year is going to be a real talking point.

Do you think that Ibiza is a foodie destination these days?
Definitely. I think we’ve got it all. We’ve got tradition, fishing, agriculture... We have an amazing culture. We’ve even got our own signature, our way of doing things... It’s an amazing breeding ground. Great chefs and brands are coming with lots of awards. And that shines a spotlight on us. The guides are starting to pick up on this good work. No one can stop it now.

Which other chefs do you admire?
I most admire my father, who passed away, but he was the one to put me straight and teach me cooking. I was a really bad student and my father taught me cooking. I really appreciate what he did for me. I also have other role models, like Albert Adrià. I had the chance to meet him in person and work with him, and he gave me a completely different perspective on food. Perhaps he was the starting pistol that got me where I am today.

Albert Adrià give me a completely different perspective on food

What would you say to young chefs who are just starting out in the cooking world?
I’d tell them they can go as far as they want. It’s a matter of hard work and consistency. Your objectives and dreams are right there and can be achieved.

Pork negre ibicenco

Ibizan pork negre © Luana Failla

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