Ibiza restaurants: Meet the chefs – Simone D’Elia & Filippo Alberi, Babylon Beach
Babylon Beach chef duo Simone D’Elia and Filippo Alberi both hail from the magnetic city of Florence, Italy in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. The two have known each other since early childhood days, and it was here they fell in love with the culinary world and decided to chase their dreams in the kitchen. From kids to burgeoning chefs working their way through the London trenches (aka kitchens) to making the leap to continue their career in Ibiza, they’re no strangers to hard work.
Today Simone and Filippo create magic in the kitchen of beautiful Ibiza beach restaurant Babylon Beach on the outskirts of Santa Eulalia. Rest assured when dining at the east coast destination, you’re in good hands. Diners experience first-hand the Babylon Beach ethos of heart, soul and passion injected into each dish coming out of the kitchen. Simone and Filippo don’t make good food and exceptional produce complicated – what they do is make simple food pretty darn close to perfect.
Tell us about your working relationship?
Filippo: We have known each other since we were children; we grew up in the same neighbourhood, went to the same school and our families are good friends. We left Italy together and went to London for five years and even there we worked together in the same restaurant.
Simone: We split up for a while to gain experience in different restaurants, but it wasn’t the same. We grew up together and we started this career together. We went through the stresses of becoming a chef together and now we are here creating food together in Ibiza. It’s just something that works.
What is your connection to Ibiza?
Filippo: We were working with a good friend who is Ibicencan, and she suggested we check out Ibiza, that there could be a future here for us.
Simone: We came here for Filippo’s birthday and instantly fell in love with the island, saw the possibilities and here we are. We moved straight away and we’ve been at Babylon Beach ever since.
What is your first memory of food?
Filippo: I remember when I was a small child, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a pastry chef – my parents recently reminded me that’s all I ever talked about.
Simone: My family is the stereotypical Italian family. Food was everywhere and I basically came out of the womb cooking. My mother is a chef, my sister is a chef and my two brothers are chefs! I actually tried to choose a different career, but in the end, the kitchen is where I am happy and feel most comfortable.
How different is Ibiza life from London life?
Filippo: In London, you work very, very hard – and it is a good thing because you learn a lot! But it’s a tough job, double the hours and no quality of life. I remember when we were first starting out we would meet and have a cocktail every night and talk about our mistakes, our fears and what was happening.
Simone: It’s very different; we worked by seconds. If you needed a plate in three minutes and it was ready thirty seconds later it would be a mess in the kitchen. The stress and attitudes were very different. Training was hard, our leading chefs were hard on us, but now we look back on those years as a funny period of time. I have memories of meeting Filippo for a cocktail, and our hands and arms would be burned and cut from our shift. We would share our experiences of being shouted at, by forgetting this or that, and the stresses. But we got through it and learned. Now we are in Ibiza living the dream, but it’s been hard work.
Talk us through the culinary concept of Babylon Beach?
Filippo: The concept is that it’s not a formal restaurant and our food is not complicated. What we really are is an amazing chiringuito. Laidback and on the beach, but we base absolutely everything around quality. When we create a dish, we study a recipe to try and make it the best that it can be. Afterwards, we test it with the owner, then close friends and customers before finally putting it on the menu. Every dish you taste here has a very detailed story behind it.
Simone: The concept is this: create something simple, play with its simplicity, but make it amazing. Our burger could look like a normal burger, but the meat is well-marbled rib eye, the bread is fresh brioche baked in our on-site bakery and the vegetables are picked from our organic farm. We want to create simple dishes that people love and provide a taste sensation for whoever is eating it. Sometimes food is overcomplicated and its perfect simplicity is lost you know? We want to reach a very proficient level of execution with our own contemporary twist and indeed some of our own traditional dishes, or at least come as close as possible.
Why is it so important to use produce from your certified organic farm?
Filippo: You see and taste an incredible difference – our tagliatelle with tomato sauce in which the sauce is made with seven different types of farm tomatoes and all different colours – I mean, wow, the flavour is intense, rich and beautiful!
Simone: In many restaurants, even as a chef you never really know what you’re getting or where it’s from. We live and work in paradise and Ibiza has so much to offer regarding meat and produce. Working so closely with the farmers and suppliers makes a difference. We respect the animals, the land and the process and hope it is experienced through the eating of our food.
Filippo: Sometimes people think organic needs to be complicated. It’s not. You plant a seed and watch it grow. Sometimes, what you’re growing will look different; maybe because it’s not genetically modified. But it’s so delicious, free of chemicals and full of nutrients.
How do you describe your style in the kitchen?
Filippo: Our secret is that we’ve worked together for ten years. Simone is an amazing butcher and controls the business side of things. My skills lay in creativity, attention to detail and presentation. We complement each other perfectly. It’s like we do a dance in the kitchen.
Simone: We actually fight like husband and wife! Sometimes we clash – but for me, this is the perfect working relationship because in the end, we have our way. It’s important to work with people that have the same philosophy as you; complementary but also people who challenge you and your ideas.
What is your signature dish?
Filippo: The fillet of beef on the menu. We use an inka oven to cook it, sealing the juices in and grilling it to perfection. The acid from the apple cider on the pickled vegetables cuts through the creamy foam of burrata, and it’s a delicious flavourful sensation.
Simone: Swordfish with mango, papaya, ginger and courgette. An Australian inspired dish!
What is your favourite food to eat?
Filippo: French and Italian. If I were to die tomorrow, I would want a French baguette with Pata Negra and a French éclair.
Simone: Arancini, I’ve eaten all my life. If I die tomorrow, that’s what I want to eat tonight.
What are your favourite places to eat in Ibiza?
Filippo: La Paloma for lunch. I love the chilled atmosphere and the garden environment. The food is not over exaggerated or fussy, much like here in Babylon, but they do good food that’s well done and the passion shows.
Simone: Amante Ibiza is a great location with great food.
What do you love most about working and living in Ibiza?
Filippo: Working and looking at the sea. When you open a door in London, there is another door. Here I open my door to the sea. When I get to work at 8am, I come here for ten minutes to look at the sea and all is okay.
Simone: One kilometre from here is gorgeous countryside. If you want to chill, there are incredible beaches. If you want to party, there are exciting clubs. You can have everything you want and the quality of life is much better. People in Ibiza are nice, the sea is in front of you and life is simple and slower – just how life should be.