They say that working with him is a piece of cake. That he is able to adapt to any situation and he makes it seem as easy as pie. Paco Alcahud is friendly, active and passionate about sports… But he is also the pastry chef at the Ibiza Gran Hotel, Casino de Ibiza and La Gaia. He has been working with chef Óscar Molina for 11 years, who describes Paco as “indispensable member of his team, as he provides stability and a positive energy.” Between laughs, they acknowledge that after working together for so many years “they sometimes act like a married couple.” Both have “absolute trust” in their dessert menu. “Dessert is the icing on the cake. It’s very important because it’s the last memory of the evening,” explains Molina.
Why did you decide to become a pastry chef?
When I finished school, I studied mechanics. A career in pastries had never crossed my mind. But my brother is a pastry chef and when I was 17 he set up a patisserie, so, I began to combine my studies with working at his patisserie, to help him out. I was his apprentice and slowly started learning; when I finished my military service, I was forced to seriously consider what I wanted to do, whether I should look for a job as a mechanic or work as a pastry chef with my brother. But as I enjoyed working at his patisserie it was an easy decision. I never actually worked as a mechanic.
What percentage of pastry chef is there in you?
Pastries are a large part of my life because I love my work, but I know that life is made up of other things too. I am always researching and learning. I also like cooking, but on a more personal level. I love making a good paella with friends. I’m always the one who gets up and starts cooking when we get together.
How has the Ibiza Gran Hotel contributed to your career?
For me, this job was a huge opportunity. I was working in another hotel in Valencia with my brother when I was offered it. I moved on from him to work at the best hotel in Ibiza. And I still think it is. When that happened, I had to start learning alone, I was no longer under my brother’s wing. Óscar had always loved what we were doing in the patisserie and… here we are today.
How has your work evolved over these 11 years?
It has taken quite a turn! And not just the patisserie, the entire hotel has changed. Everything has improved: the dining room, the kitchen… all the departments, and of course, the patisserie too. When I look at photos from 11 years ago, I find it incredible that we started that way. I also find that our pastries are evolving at a general level. It used to be unusual for hotels or restaurants to have pastry chefs in their kitchens, but fortunately that is changing. Everything is changing really. Social networks help drive this revolution: before, I couldn’t tell you the name of more than three pastry chefs, but we now know many professionals and we all help each other. I think that we are improving every year. This season in La Gaia we will work much closer to the customer. Desserts will now be placed in front of the diner, and that is a huge change in the dining experience.
This season in La Gaia we will work much closer to the customer
What are the La Gaia and Ibiza Gran Hotel new dessert menus like?
We have a solid and established menu. We offer everything from the most classic pastries to more conceptual gastronomic desserts. The desserts at La Gaia are inspired by local, Ibiza flavours. For example, we have created a dessert that is a mix between a soufflé and a Café Caleta, which we flambé in front of the diner… We have another one that is also assembled at the table, made with fresh Ibiza sheep’s milk curdled then and there. It curds in approximately 30 seconds and is served with apples and walnuts… Another dessert inspired by Ibiza is the Santa Inés (for chocolate lovers). It was one of last season’s star dishes which is why we keep it on the menu. This year, we have created five petit fours to finish off the La Gaia experience: they are all different and will be part of the tasting menus.
We have several points of sale throughout the hotel, so we have tailored menus designed specifically for each location. For example, for room service, our customers most often ask us for international cakes: sachertorte, tiramisu… For the Pool Bar we created something a little more refreshing, and at breakfast we have an amazing menu, because it is our reference menu. People with a sweet tooth melt when they see our breakfast table set with 15 different options, in addition to the pastries, breads and crepes… And once a week we temper chocolate in front of the client, and make chocolates, chocolate-coated strawberries, etc., right then and there for them.
We have a solid and established menu. We offer everything from the most classic pastries to more conceptual gastronomic desserts
Tell us about the creative process for your desserts?
They are essentially designed during winter. The creation process for our La Gaia dessert menu includes working very closely with Óscar Molina. We create the technical files and then, when we have incorporated all the team, we all taste everything together and brainstorm ideas until each dish is perfected. Most desserts go through huge changes. But the dishes also evolve during the season.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud when our work is appreciated by our diners and our colleagues. It also makes me feel proud that the team is happy working with me. The patisserie team is currently made up of six people and I think they are all happy; we are continuously learning, but most importantly we all give and contribute our ideas.
What is the essential ingredient that can always be found in your kitchen?
Chocolate, always. But also almonds—representing Ibiza.