Meet the chef: Mike Licata Caruso, Ushuaia

Ushuaia, Ibiza beach restaurant - Chef Mike Caruso

Photography by Ana Lui

Having grown up surrounded by amazing Italian-style home cooking, it’s no surprise Mike Licata Caruso’s career of choice happened to be in the kitchen! The well-traveled chef worked in Canada, Argentina and mainland Spain, plus some of Ibiza’s most famous restaurants – including Pacha, Aura and Las Dalias – before graduating to head chef position at Ibiza beach restaurant du jour, Ushuaia in 2010.

What inspired you to become a chef?
My family. We lived in Argentina, but my parents are from Italy, so they were always cooking Italian food, especially on Sundays when all the family came together to make pasta – I was always watching that. We also had a summerhouse, where we would host special events and my parents would do the catering. I was always around cooking! At the age of 12, my uncle had a pizza restaurant in Buenos Aires, and I started to lend a hand, and then went on to study professional gastronomy.

How did you come to work at Ushuaia?
I first came to Ibiza in 2005 after I’d done an apprenticeship in the Michelin starred restaurant El Bulli in Gerona, and then I just kept coming back every year. In 2008, a friend introduced me to the owner of Ushuaia, we became friends and I opened the kitchen there (in it’s previous position further down the beach). Then this winter, I went away and worked with the famous chef Martin Berasategui, at his namesake restaurant in San Sebastian, then I came back to the new Ushuaia as head chef.

How do you describe your style in the kitchen?
We work as a team – I am the chef, but I’m always trying to teach others. While everyone has a job to do, they also have to help with a bit of everything. Our menu is made up of fusion food, but in a classic style and we always using fresh products, nothing frozen and made with a lot of care.

What is your signature dish?
The crab ravioli – it’s my own recipe, and we take a lot of care when we do the preparation and then make it with a lot of love! That’s what makes it special.

What’s your own favourite food?
My favourite food is sushi, but I love everything really! I can eat anything, but Asiatic food is the best – so fresh, so many combinations and it’s healthy too.

What are your favourite restaurants in Ibiza?
That’s a hard question! I like Ama Lur, for classic Ibiza gastronomy, Pacha Restaurante with Ramiro and Jotta (I worked with them too!), I also like the Jackpot Restaurant in Ibiza Gran Hotel – the chef is French, and he makes some really nice dishes, and Pastis for gourmet French cuisine.

What do you like the most about living in Ibiza?
I just love this place, the island, the weather, the sea. I love the beach. People who live by the beach are not the same as people who live in a city – they’re always smiling. It’s really something special to live by the sea – you have that possibility to go to the beach whenever you want, although now I’m not getting to enjoy it very much because I’m working up to 14 hours a day!