He grew up there working with his father in the family’s hotel and restaurant along a golden beach situated within a protected nature reserve. Life there was quiet and ran according to seasonal rhythms. The town doesn’t even posses one set of traffic lights. It was here Mauro learned the hospitality trade and more importantly where he discovered a life long passion for foraging fresh produce and fishing in the crystalline waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. For the last 15 years Mauro has called Ibiza home. Now the head chef at acclaimed Benirras beach club Elements Ibiza, he has transferred his love for the natural world from one paradise to another.
What brought you to Ibiza? I was looking for a change but I knew I needed to live somewhere similar to where I am from. To be near the beach with a lot of nature around. Ibiza is very much like that. I can’t live without the sea or nature. I don’t like cities. So, this place was perfect for me. Where did you get your start as a chef? My family had a hotel and restaurant on the beach. We lived in the hotel and I worked in the all capacities, in the kitchen or cleaning or as a waiter. I was always around hospitality. But I loved the kitchen. My mother never bought me cupcakes, everything was homemade and I always helped her. She cooked everything in the traditional way and I learned from her. She encouraged me to cook and make up my own dishes. At what point did you realise you wanted to dedicate your life to cooking? I worked in the hotel, but I think when I came here to Ibiza, when I left home I realised that cooking was what I really wanted. Before then it was a family business. You do everything. Now, here, it has a different value for me, I realised that I was good at it, that I loved it and I wanted to follow that through.
What is your inspiration for the Elements menu? For sure, it’s my personal experience. For me where you live is important. If you can go out and find wild rocket, asparagus, mushrooms… I used to go out almost every day to fish, to forage. I like to work with produce that’s right on your door. So here in Ibiza it’s the same for me. It’s about what is in season, like making marmalade from Ibiza oranges or local apricots with rosemary. The natural world inspires me. We have a small piece of land here where we grow tomatoes, basil, and other things we have planted just for the restaurant. Everything is as local as possible. For example our olive oil is made in Benirras, the salt is from here – it’s all local. What’s your style in the kitchen? I’m not one of those crazy chefs. I like to be with the people I work with, I spend ten hours in the kitchen with them every day. To spend ten hours with a hard face is not my idea of good work. I sing in the kitchen, I like to create a calm environment for everyone. The energy you have transmits to the food. People can taste it. What is your signature dish? Well, I’m Italian, so it’s pasta. We make everything here; none of our pasta is bought – it is made fresh everyday. We use different flours. And of course the seafood, and combining the fresh pasta with the local seafood. We have a fixed menu and then lots of daily specials depending on what is in season. Each month there is something new because there may be a certain fish in season, or certain fruit or vegetables that are particularly good at that time and we create a dish around that produce. We are never bored here.
How do you describe your cuisine? Even the simplest pasta can be influenced by how the chef cooks it. For example, pasta with clams in a simple sauce, within that you put your own voice and style to it. Or pasta with tomato and mushrooms, so simple, but there are no two tomato sauces the same. For me, the more simple the better it is and it depends a lot on the produce. What kind of tomatoes? What kind of mushrooms? Herbs are very important, the oil, the basil, it all must be right. All of that can change even the simplest dish. I like to have a simple, light, touch. My cooking is very Mediterranean. It might seem limited but it’s all about the flavours, keeping it humble and flavoursome. 90-percent of what I know comes from my DNA. I do small courses here and there but it’s what’s inside that counts. I’ve been around it all my life, it’s instinctive. What is your favourite dish to eat in Ibiza? The truth? I spend all my life in a restaurant. When I am not here I don’t want to be in another restaurant. I like to cook at home for friends and family, to have a barbecue at home is the best thing. What is your favourite food? I love fish. I like it raw too; if I know where it had come from and that it’s good. And of course my mother’s food! What do you love about working in Ibiza and living in Ibiza? The simplicity of life here. The beach, the forest, the sea.