On an island with so many restaurants boasting beautiful views, Cala Bonita – its subtle palm-shaded chiringuito – really stands out from the rest. With a curved bay of crystal clear water and just the right amount of sunbeds sinking into the sand, it’s impossible not to find a seat that does not look out onto the magnificence of the Mediterranean. Argentinian-born Chef Brian Olocco leads the kitchen, under the wise guidance of renowned executive chef Pau Barba. “It was hard to leave the last job”, says Olocco, who had been poached by Barba from his previous gig. “They were my family for five years. But Pau offered me this job and I couldn’t refuse him.” At first glance, however, one would never know Olocco’s working life started on a completely different track…
As a youth, he played professional football in Argentina, eventually being signed to a team in Italy. An unfortunate knee injury put an end to that trajectory but the young Olocco knew exactly where he was heading next. “I always liked to cook and to eat more healthily,” he says. “After the injury, when I was 18, I went to culinary school. ” It just happened to be Argentina’s most well-known and respected culinary school, Gato Dumas. Dumas himself was a trailblazer in both London and Buenos Aires, opening some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants and becoming one of the world’s first celebrity chefs. His culinary school was hallowed ground for a young ex-footballer from the countryside and Olocco loved every minute of it. By the age of 21, he was working as a chef and in 2017 he has reached a career milestone by taking his first head chef position at Cala Bonita.
Barba’s influence is noticeable in both the menu and the enthusiasm with which his protégé tackles his job. “It is pure pleasure to work with Pau,” says Olocco. “It’s all about the quality of the produce. His cuisine is very simple because he lets the produce do the talking.” Indeed, mornings at Cala Bonita are a flurry of deliveries as every single element trundles down the dirt road either freshly plucked from the farm or the sea. As an Argentinean, Olocco’s natural inclination is for Cala Bonita’s delectable T-bone steak yet his obsession with food makes it impossible to choose a favoured dish. “There is nothing I don’t like. I will try anything,” he says. “I am a fanatic. The mussels are amazing; the watermelon salad is really refreshing. The wild caught fish coming in every day… I can’t choose a favourite!” That said, when sea bass season starts, he’s deliriously happy.
And therein lies the philosophy of Cala Bonita and Olocco himself. “With good produce, you can make beautiful things,” he explains. “I always look for the best, organic wherever possible. Ibiza is so good for that.” It seems it’s not just the produce that Olocco loves about Ibiza. Recently married, he’s now expecting his first child. “It’s the best place to be a kid,” he says, grinning from ear to ear in anticipation. This nurturing side of Olocco is evident in the way he carries himself and communicates with his colleagues. There is an obvious camaraderie between the kitchen team, which consists of a core of four chefs supplemented by summer hires. “If someone is content in their job it shows in their work,” he says. “Here we look after each other as much as possible. It’s important for us and for the food.”
It shows. Pau Barba’s menu, as executed by Olocco, is a masterful selection anchored in Mediterranean flavours. Contemporary techniques meld seamlessly with classics, produced from an open-plan kitchen boasting a custom built charcoal grill. Wild-caught Formentera scampi, traditional Spanish rices, whole chargrilled fish, juicy racks of lamb, local prawns and more; Cala Bonita offers an abundance of deliciousness, made with a whole lot of love in a setting that is nothing short of island perfection.