A descendent of Basque and Italian grandparents, Roberto Emilio Galarza (1980, Posadas, Argentina) is the new executive chef at the Hotel Aguas de Ibiza*****GL. He traded in taekwondo (a sport in which he ended up competing professionally) for cooking at a very young age. He’s spent half his life travelling around the world. It is for this reason that he coined the term ‘immigrant cooking’ to define his culinary style. In the Alabastro restaurant, the chef offers a fun and relaxed culinary proposal during the day, serving more classic and sophisticated dishes when the sun goes down.
How did you first get into cooking and what has your career been like so far?
I’ve been cooking for 22 years. I started washing dishes when I was very young. I loved cooking when I was a little boy, always cooking with my grandmothers. My father is a chef and my grandfather was a baker. My career has been very nomadic, travelling all over the place and working in many different kitchens. During this spell I learned a lot about the trade, also studying in reputable hospitality schools. I studied a master’s degree in pastry making and cooking at the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris. I worked in various Michelin star restaurants, under the tutelage of great chefs. I studied a bachelor’s degree in business management and administration, and also hold a master’s degree in restaurant management. I acted as a consultant for various restaurants, opened my own restaurants and opened restaurants for other people. And now, with 22 years’ experience under my belt, I still feel that I’ve got a lot to learn.
How long have you been living in Ibiza for?
I’ve lived here for four years. Before I moved to Ibiza I was living in San Sebastián, working for the Ixo Group (Mugaritz, Bodegón Alejandro, TOPA Sukaldería, and Nerua Guggenheim, amongst others). I learnt a lot there. The Basque Country is one of my favourite places because, as they say, blood is thicker than water. I also spent a long time working at San Sebastián Gastronómica alongside Roser Torras.
How would you define yourself as a person?
I feel like I’m a normal, ordinary kind of guy. I use my parents as a benchmark. I don’t go out very much, I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t have any bad habits… I’m sporty, I’m a father and I love studying and reading lots about hospitality. I think I’m very visceral and direct.
And as a chef?
I’m a good colleague: I prefer to be a leader than a dictatorial chef. With some of my colleagues, I play a father-figure role; with others, I’m more of a brother. I don’t like to call myself a ‘chef’. I prefer the word ‘cook’, because at the end of the day, besides managing the amazing team who work for me, I still cook.
What is the secret to getting a kitchen team to work well together?
With the current situation in Ibiza, it’s very difficult to put together a team of passionate individuals. It seems that nobody wants to be a cook any more, with everyone instead aiming to be a chef. I try to set them the best example possible. I work alongside them, always showing them the reasons as to why we do things in a certain way. I love my profession and I want others to feel the same passion.
How would you define your cooking style?
My cooking style is nomadic. It is immigrant cooking. It contains aspects of my homeland, where I grew up, and from each of the countries where I have been: Brazil, France, Spain, etc. It’s very casual. I try to take risks, and to always be honest: if we have good quality ingredients to work with, I focus hard on achieving a good technique.
What is Alabastro’s offering like?
Alabastro is found in the lobby of the Hotel Aguas de Ibiza. It’s a very curious place during the day: very casual and fun. The restaurant becomes more intimate when the sun goes down, with a slower, more sophisticated menu of greater gastronomic value. This is a must-visit restaurant: not just for the guests of the hotel, but for the residents of Ibiza. It has a fresh summertime menu of the highest quality.
What does this new challenge mean for you?
I left the world of hotels a long time ago. I went back to working in restaurants. But in the last few years, many amazing chefs have started to open restaurants within hotels. This is what led me to consider going back to working in hotels, as they allow you to try your hand at much more sophisticated proposals. It’s been hugely challenging, as it has been far from easy to put a team together. But now we’re all on the right track. Now, all we need to do is keep working.
What is your main goal?
My main goal is to open my own restaurant one day. I also want to use local produce in my immigrant cooking. Ibiza’s land and sea offer the perfect conditions for fantastic ingredients, and I want to highlight this in my cooking.