Croquet Benjamin was born in the north of France, where he trained and fell in love with traditional, rich flavours normally associated with French food, however five years ago he packed his bags for Monaco, where he learned the fine art of creating sushi. Today, as head chef for the all-new News Café, he strives to create a menu brimming with surprise and special combinations – including obvious yet delicious French influences infiltrating his modern take on sushi!
What inspired you to become a chef?
I was pretty much born in restaurants! All my family worked in restaurants – I think I was about eight years old the first time I was in the kitchen, playing around with food and making things up. Then as I got older, it just carried on…
What led you to work at News Café?
I worked in the Pacific Monte Carlo, where I learned very basic, traditional sushi, then moved to the D.Fly Cheltenham Spa in England, which specialises in Thai and Japanese food, so I gave it a little French touch. Then I went to Barcelona, to work at Barroc Café, making all kinds of weird stuff – experimenting with cocktails with soy and sushi with alcohol. But Barcelona wasn’t for me, so I came here. I was looking for a sushi restaurant, and someone recommended this to me. That’s it!
How do you describe your style in the kitchen?
I’m very close to my team – I like to have a drink with them when we finish, but when we are working, we’re working! But my style is a mix of traditional and creative fusion – I always say there’s no limit to how crazy you can be in the kitchen.
What is your signature dish?
I specialise in sushi and presentation. My family is quite artistic, so I have a passion for presentation, every little thing on the plate is important to me. My sushi has a French touch with flavours like foie gras, black truffle, red wine and many French ingredients inside too. Everybody in Ibiza is making sushi, so I wanted to make something that was different.
What was it like, creating a menu for a brand new restaurant?
There was absolutely nothing when I arrived – and it’s so much better to start like this, not come in after another chef. You create your own plates, give them your own names and people either like it or they don’t – so far I think the reaction has been good, many customers come back a lot, so I’m happy!
Can you explain the ‘amuse bouche’ that’s on the menu? Where did that come from?
It’s very typically French and normally something we’d give to you when you arrive at your table – small and delicate finger food like mini tartar of sea bass with coriander and ponzu sauce, foie gras with onion jelly and brioche, beef teriyaki with rocket salad. It’s like an elaborate appetiser.
What’s your own favourite food?
Three-star Michelin French food! I love foie gras, black truffle, duck, lobster – there’s not much that I don’t like.
What do you like the most about living in Ibiza?
The lifestyle, it’s quiet, everybody’s relaxed, happy and good.