A lot of little boys dream of becoming football stars. They fantasise about winning goals, the crowds shouting their name, the trophies, prizes and lucrative contracts with famous sporting brands. But as those little boys grow up, they soon learn that pleasure comes not in the form of accolades, but in the small moments of joy when no one is looking. Like many boys, BiBo Ibiza Bay founder Dani García also dreamed of becoming a footballer – fortunately for the world, he quickly figured out his talent and passion was in the kitchen rather than on the pitch. With 20 years in the business, a slew of prizes including three Michelin stars, plus several signature dishes to his name, Dani García is now one of the greatest chefs in Spain, if not the world.
Today, it’s no longer about prizes. At the top of his game in 2018 – just a month after receiving his third Michelin star – Dani García walked away from the world of haute cuisine. It was an unprecedented move that shocked the industry. Quite simply, García no longer dreamed of being the culinary equivalent of a football star. His interest was no longer in high-level cuisine but in the small joys of his culinary roots – his home pitch, so to speak, where as a boy he left his football boots at the doors of his mother and grandmother’s Andalusian kitchens. “These are the memories that have accompanied me all my life,” the BiBo Ibiza Bay maestro explains. “Being with my parents and grandmother. That was the reason I became a chef.”
Even though food critics gasped at the audacity of this move, casual dining had been a Dani García staple since 2016 when he opened his first BiBo concept restaurant (he now has six). The premise was to encompass the quality of haute cuisine without the pretence. So, while there may be some molecular cooking on the menu, there’s also a burger. “Our objective with BiBo is to democratise haute cuisine and let diners enjoy a varied menu influenced by flavours from countries I’ve visited throughout my life,” says Garcia. This is cuisine without borders and so far, BiBo restaurants have provided diners a culinary passport to Japan, France, Italy, and of course Andalucía. And now with BiBo Ibiza Bay at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, diners can send their tastebuds directly to Mexico while gazing across the Mediterranean towards the old town of Ibiza.
While the BiBo Ibiza Bay menu contains Garcia’s most beloved dishes, the Mexican section was developed in conjuction with chef Abril Chamorro, one of Garcia’s long time collaborators. “We met in New York where she was part of the team at a restaurant I had there at the time,” remembers Garcia. “Then she came to Spain to join us at Dani García Restaurante. Now Abril is one of the most important members of my team. She is in charge of openings, works in research and development, and takes our concepts around the world.” Mexican-born Chamorro did not have to dig deep to reach the flavours of her childhood – like Garcia, she always carries them in her heart and mind. For his part, García is a tireless traveller on a constant hunt for new flavour experiences. Chamorro showed him Mexico through the lens of its ancient cuisine, which is constantly reinvented by street food vendors and up-and-coming chefs alike.
Chamorro’s dishes cross multiple regions of a country whose culinary depth is still undiscovered. Ensenada is in Baja California and Chamorro’s interpretation of that city’s classic fish tacos are stuffed with sea bass, coleslaw and a popping tangy mayonnaise. The menu already has Garcia’s signature ceviche, so Chamorro added a surprising vegetarian version with raw salsa verde, creamy burrata, tomato and tempura vegetables. Guacamole is ubiquitous these days, but BiBo Ibiza Bay’s version takes the concept to the next level. Served in a mortar and pestle and made at your table, which is the traditional way to make this dish, the creamy avocado is flavoured with coriander, tomato and onion and garnished with torreznos – a crunchy fried bacon snack.
The Mexican-inspired dishes added to the BiBo signature raw bar are sublime. Along with BiBo’s regular oysters with three sauces, corvina ceviche and lobster salpicon salad, is Chamorro’s tuna loin on toast with chipotle mayonnaise and local red prawn aguachile served with blue and yellow corn toasts. Aguachile is a close relative of ceviche and hails from the Sinaloa region. If you’ve never tried local Ibiza prawns, you’re in for a real treat. Their sweetness melts into the tartness of the chili water, lime and cilantro while cucumber and onion lend a fresh crunch. It’s no wonder this is García’s favourite dish on the BiBo Ibiza Bay menu. His vision of a democratic cuisine means the menu is designed for sharing – you’ll thank him when you realise you also want to order the classic tacos al pastor and chilorio burritos. The streets of Mexico burst through in every bite. Make sure you come with friends. And don’t skip the cocktails. Or the desserts.
They say never meet your heroes because you’ll only find out they are human. That’s not true in the world of gastronomy. Foodies have a way about them that lets them connect with anyone who is passionate about flavour, be it a burger flipper in a food truck, a nonna cooking for her family or a veteran chef with a bunch of stars. García had and still has the honour of calling his culinary heroes and mentors his friends, even partners in crime. “Joël Robuchon,” he says without hesitation when asked about his most inspiring relationships. “He has this ability to take his kitchen and business model around the world. In addition, he knows how to reinvent when necessary.” In the ultimate ode to his friend, García named a dish in his honour – the delectable crunchy Robuchon king prawns which are available on the BiBo Ibiza Bay menu.
Of course, Nobu Matsuisha is also high up on García’s heroes list. “When the opportunity to bring the BiBo concept to Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay arrived, we couldn’t say no,” he says. “I admire everything he does.” The two chefs have had a long friendship and first united their brands at Nobu Hotel Marbella. Now with the installation of BiBo Ibiza Bay, their connection is even more solidified. “BiBo can be adapted to any environment,” Garcia says. “We are so happy with the result here at BiBo Ibiza Bay.” Indeed, the relaxed yet luxurious atmosphere of the hotel combined with the sea views and island vibe is a perfect match. Football is inevitable but how would the world taste without Dani García? We are all indebted to García’s mother and grandmother for instilling in him a passion for food and luring him away from his beloved football. And, of course, to Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay for finally bringing him to Ibiza.