Food for the soul: Giuseppe Vivacqua – Head chef, Can Domingo

Beppe Vivacqua, head chef at the magnificent Italian fine dining destination Can Domingo, has the eyes of a dreamer. Soft spoken and considered, not the expected temperament of a fine dining chef, more like an artisan who quietly but with great assurance practises his craft. And that is very much what he is. For Beppe the connection between his hands that create the dishes and his mind that dreams them up is one and the same. The spiritual meaning behind the human need for alimentation goes beyond just food; it’s about providing the necessities of life.

This year Beppe travelled to Thailand to participate in a Vipassana meditation course, which involves ten days of total silence. The idea is to create a flowing current between calmness and insight, and it can be tough going. Despite being surrounded by others you are totally and completely alone with yourself. For Beppe it was revelatory and inspirational. There he reconnected with this creative self, ideas flowed and blossomed, and equilibrium was recalibrated. It was during a meditation that the seed of a new dish sprouted. Colours appeared in his minds eye and over time the dish developed into what he calls Walking Meditation – a vegan pasta dish reverberating in the greens and reds of the garden and the tastes and techniques of both Italy and Asia. The gentle dance between flavours, aroma and texture is much like the dance of life. A little of this, not too much of that until it’s just right.

Can Domingo is a seasonal restaurant and while the waiters may pack away their aprons and go on holiday in the winter, the work of the chef never pauses; he is always thinking, plotting, experimenting, tasting. There is no end to his curiosity. Meditation and self-discovery is just another aspect to his work. “Everything is important,” Beppe intones quietly. “The kitchen is the motor. Service, ambience, it’s all very important but it’s through our food that we communicate. We all do. Here in the restaurant, and for families at home, food is the great communicator.”

The same goes for Can Domingo’s provedores. Beppe travels widely throughout Italy to meet personally with small producers. His criterion is simple but increasingly hard to meet. He has to be able to look the farmers, millers and producers right in the eye and see the same passion and respect that he himself holds dearly. He knows all the processes of the cheesemaker, the rice grower, the wheat farmer. They seem to be small details but the proof is in the tasting. The wheat farmer can look at a packet of his flour and know exactly which wheat field the flour inside came from. “It hardly exists anymore, this attention to detail. Many of these people are six or seventh generation, and they are using the same beautiful machines their great-grandfathers used. It’s beautiful.”

This season Beppe is directing some of his focus onto a small vegan menu. Already dishing out some spectacular vegetable dishes he wants to further showcase the amazing produce that comes from Ibiza, Italy and his own beloved garden. “We are not leaving the rest behind of course, we are Italian after all!” Meat lovers will be pleased to hear that all of the carnivorous delights of Ibiza and Italy will still feature on the menu.

Part of the inspiration for this direction came from the garden Beppe has lovingly cultivated in the red earth around Can Domingo. Another part of it came from one of his most respected heroes – Pietro Leemann who heads up Joia in Milan, Europe’s only Michelin starred fine dining vegetarian restaurant. This winter Beppe completed a course with his maestro, gaining new skills, techniques, connections and inspirations that he will bring into the Can Domingo kitchen with much gusto and as always, much love.