Ibiza restaurants: Chef Óscar Molina at La Gaia – A magician at work
Reinvention is at the forefront of everything Ibiza represents. It’s an island of constant evolution; a place where standing still isn’t an option. This is one of the many reasons it continues to draw international talent from all fields, and why it remains a haven for top creative minds, particularly those of the culinary persuasion. Never has this been more true than in the case of the much famed Óscar Molina, a trailblazing Catalonian chef who has made his home on the island, and at La Gaia, the ground-breaking Japeruvian restaurant housed within the Ibiza Gran Hotel.
Having travelled the world honing his craft for over 30 years – and winning multiple awards along the way – Óscar became involved in the opening of the Ibiza Gran Hotel in 2008, when he was asked to head up a team of 43 dedicated professionals and to initiate brand new gastronomic concepts across all of the group’s restaurants, including La Gaia, the Ibiza Gran Hotel’s most sophisticated offering of haute cuisine, art, and design. Now, thanks to Óscar’s pioneering techniques and prowess in the kitchen, La Gaia is critically acclaimed; a restaurant with a reputation that precedes it in Ibiza and around the world.
What’s made La Gaia such an unmitigated success can all be laid at the feet of Óscar, of course, and that’s no surprise when you recognise he’s considered one of Spain’s leading chefs and a respected voice among his industry. Having fostered an interest in fusion cooking when he worked with the legendary Mey Hoffman at the Arts Hotel in Barcelona, he went on to perfect his own abilities by approaching food with unrivalled passion and spirit, something he continues to do this day. “I admire chefs who reinvent themselves, who create new concepts and set trends,” he says, and this approach is clear in everything he does.
It also goes someway to explaining why this past winter, in spite of his already refined expertise, he embarked on a 40-day culinary journey in Peru, one in which he immersed himself in local culture while plying his trade at internationally renowned restaurants including Astrid & Gaston, considered among the world’s top 50 eateries. Always keen to learn and improve, Óscar says it gave him a new understanding of Peruvian food. “I didn’t go with the idea of mastering the cuisine of a country, as that would be impossible,” he explains. “But what we can learn from trips like this is something about the history of a place and their approach to cooking.”
He carries these newly-learnt methods into his own kitchen, where using a bespoke fusion of Japanese and Peruvian techniques, he shuns traditional ideas of starters, mains and desserts, and instead focuses on single-plate dishes that are packed full of colour and flavour: “Peru is not just about ceviches and tiraditos, just as Japan is not just about sushi,” he says. “We have discovered things that have opened our minds to a new creativity.” This is visible on the five-star La Gaia menu, which promises a journey through two worlds, via the Mediterranean.
Dishes include Japeruvian spring chicken roasted with yakiniku sauce, shiitake mushrooms and corn, and Nikkei Parihuela stew with Chilean sea bass, shrimp, octopus, Peruvian stew, yuzu and lime. The contrasting culinary techniques are there for all to see and taste – Óscar approaches each dish with meticulous detail, always intent on immersing the diner in the unique world he aims to forge on the plate. Even the cocktail menu features pisco and sake alongside each other. Try the Chilcano for a combination of Pisco 1615, lime juice, ginger beer and bitters, or the Sake Mate for Macallan Amber, Umeshu Japanese liquor, mate, lime juice and bitters.
Much like the island on which he lives, Óscar continues to reinvent himself, each summer bringing new ideas and creations to his kitchen that keep it innovative, fresh, and unlike anywhere else on the island. His devotion to the Spanish concept of ‘kilometre 0’ also means that only the finest local ingredients reach your plate. “Development and knowledge are an essential element in gastronomy,” he explains, and that’s why when you dine at La Gaia, you can expect a harmonious blend of texture, elegance and knowledge on your plate. Want to witness Óscar working his Peruvian culinary magic? Click here to view his latest artistic creation, a video delving beyond his kitchen and inside his imagination.