After studying Culinary Sciences at the University of Harvard, the Dutchman Gee Van D. travelled the world cooking, in search of new experiences, and has now settled in Ibiza. And all those memories can be savoured in each of his dishes. Private chef, culinary consultant and nutritional coach, he believes that at 53, these are the best years of his life. He enjoys all his professional activities, and indeed, there is one common ingredient in all of them: love. It is not a cliché: Gee Van D. says that is precisely the key to his success and that of any restaurant: “Put a lot of love into it”.
How would you define your cuisine?
It is a fusion of everything that I have experienced, studied and travelled. There is a little bit of everything in it, and of many countries. I have always travelled a lot and paid for my travels by working as a chef. And I am very pro Ibiza, I often use products from the island.
What projects are you currently carrying out?
This year I have worked as a consultant for three new restaurants: Keto Kitchen (Santa Gertrudis), Natural Point Bistro Bar and Dinner in the Sky. They are three different projects. The first, Keto Kitchen, is the first sugar-free restaurant in the world. It is inspired by the ketogenic diet. It’s a beautiful concept and it’s very successful. I designed the menu and developed the business plan for Natural Point Bistro Bar. I have had the good fortune of working with a good friend of mine—and my right hand—Mariano Barragan, who is the executive chef. And finally, Dinner in the Sky: I’m very excited about this restaurant. It comprises one single table that seats 24 people and it is located in the port of Ibiza at a height of 50 metres.
What exactly is a ketogenic diet?
A ketogenic diet (or keto) is based on the intake of 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates. With the ketogenic diet you turn your body into a fat burning machine.
What is the secret to cooking without sugar?
Sugar is present in all foods: bread, rice, honey… it is the most addictive substance in the world. Many people do not know it, but sugar kills. 85% of all diseases that we have are caused by sugar. I personally substitute sugar with a product called erythritol. There are many other natural sweeteners, but this is one of the safest and most widely available. Erythritol is not sweet. I believe that if we want to eliminate sugar from our diets, we have to change our mindset. We must start from scratch to learn new things. Our mind is sometimes our worst enemy, which is why we need to start learning from a new perspective. The mind is what makes us feel depressed or happy. We only have two emotions: fear and love. Everything else, derives from those two. For me, love illuminates everything, which is why I cook with my heart. The most important ingredient in my kitchen is love, everything turns out well when it is based on that platform. If you cook from a place of anger, you will poison your diners. Because people are made up of 70% water, and we absorb energy.
If we want to eliminate sugar from our diets, we have to change our mindset
Are you vegan?
I believe that eating healthy is very important. I was vegan for one year. But I decided not to limit myself to a single diet. My mind was made to be free and I don’t like the idea of having to say “I can’t eat this or that.” I prefer saying “I choose not to eat this.” I don’t eat much meat, except on certain occasions: events, birthdays, etc. I don’t want to be ‘that vegan’.
I don’t eat much meat, except on certain occasions: events, birthdays, etc. I don’t want to be ‘that vegan’
What do you think about Ibiza’s current culinary state?
I think Ibiza is experiencing an incredible gastronomic moment. People initially visited Ibiza for the clubs. But now we have something big: gastronomy. Despite this, it makes me sad to see that the majority of restaurant owners don’t understand what running a restaurant entails. As a consultant, the most important thing I want to teach is that your employees are your company’s biggest asset. If you treat them well, pay them well, give them a reasonable number of hours and listen to them, the business will go well, because they are the basis of your business. Everyone who I talk to about this agrees: most of Ibiza’s restaurants treat their employees very badly. Another basic aspect to a successful restaurant is good, quality products. It is impossible to create quality meals using poor quality products. Buying quality products, even if it means paying a little more, will help you in the long run. And finally, if your cuisine is amazing but your service is bad, people will never return to your restaurant. In Ibiza, workers need to work double shifts because they can’t make ends meet. And that makes them so tired that they can’t even smile. Restaurant owners must stop thinking only about money and really understand this. Things would change a lot.
Do you think this problem exists only in Ibiza?
I think it’s a problem in the hospitality sector in general, but especially in Ibiza. Because the season here is very short. People come to ‘loot’ the island… I have lived here for 20 years and what I have learned is that when you treat the island well, the island treats you well back.
As a consultant, the most important thing I want to teach is that your employees are your company’s biggest asset
How can we tackle this problem?
As a private chef and as a consultant, I always take good care of my team. I listen to them, because when you really take the time to listen to problems and build a family, it shows. I have worked with the same team for several years: Gonzalo Federico Lima, Marcelo Forconesi and Mariano Barragan. We are closer than a family and I know that they are happy doing what they do and working with me. Another very important thing is that restaurants should treat their customers like kings. If you treat them with respect and with love, they will return.
What are your next challenges?
Right now, I am very focused on Dinner in the Sky. It is my biggest challenge. I will collaborate with several chefs on the island for it, such as Jose Miguel Bonet (Es Ventall) or David Reartes (Reart). What we are going to offer goes far beyond food: a show and an authentic experience. After all, that’s what eating a meal should be: an experience.