Meet the chef: Stephane Gasciolli, El Ayoun

Stephane Gasciolli, Ibiza restaurant El Ayoun chef

Photography by Annie Peel

Toulouse-born Stephane Gasciolli joined the El Ayoun team 12 years ago switching cold winters in Andorra for the all-year round Ibiza lifestyle. Now entering his fourth season as head of the kitchen, you’ll spot him flitting between his kitchen and tables in the El Ayoun restaurant, puffy chef’s hat bobbing away as he checks on his creations and entertains diners with his jolly wit and character at the same time!What inspired you to become a chef?
I always knew I wanted to work in the catering trade but I didn’t know I’d end up in the kitchen! I didn’t like normal school, so I decided to leave and join catering trade school when I was 15. I liked the idea of working with people and food.

How do you describe your style in the kitchen?
Sometimes I have to be hard but I’m not a tyrant! I’m just a bit severe because I have to keep everything under control in order to serve up to 400 diners a night. There’s a really good vibe between everybody here. The waiters and kitchen staff get on really well – that’s very unusual in such a big restaurant!

What is your signature dish?
My version of Crying Tiger – the base is a recipe by a super famous Thai woman called Madame Wong, and there are two versions of why it’s called Crying Tiger: either it has lots of chilli and is so hot it makes you cry or it is so good you cry with pleasure! The quality of the meat is fantastic, and the mixture of sauces with the coriander and ginger plus rice cooked with lemongrass creates a fabulous Thai concoction of flavours. A lot of people come to El Ayoun especially for it.

What’s your own favourite food?
I love Italian food – it is so diverse and full of colours and tastes. I also like Oriental food from Thailand and Bali. The fish with different herbs that they eat there, but Italian is my favorite. I love the mozzarella, the pasta, the prosciutto… everything. I think I would like to go to Tuscany to die…

What are your favourite restaurants in Ibiza?
I like Rincon del Puerto, Il Giardinetto, Trattoria del Mar and La Luna del Norte in Sant Miquel. I love Yemanjá on the beach of Cala Jondal and Blue Marlin too. There are so many good restaurants in Ibiza – at home I don’t cook. I only cook in winter. People think I must make incredible things at home, but when I’m there I’ll just have a cheese sandwich!

What do you like the most about living in Ibiza?
The quality of life I have in Ibiza I have never experienced anywhere else and it’s not just because it’s an island, because in France you also have islands like Corsica. After six months of working hard, all I think about is leaving and then after just two days away I want to come back!

Do you travel and look for inspiration for new dishes?
Yes, of course. When I travel with (El Ayoun owner) Charles we eat out a lot, and I always return with 15 extra kilos under my belt! I also like to buy lots of books. I have a massive library of cooking books. Anything that’s published on the matter, I buy it. It is my life and my passion.