Meet the chef: Manuel Novás, La Marisqueria

Born in Galicia, in the province of A Coruña, Manuel Novás – new head chef of Boutique Hostal Salinas’ restaurant La Marisqueria – certainly knows his cuisine, in particular, seafood! When the team behind the hotel were looking for an experienced Galician chef who could bring authenticity to their recently revamped restaurant, Manuel ticked all the boxes. Experienced, educated, professional and indeed, authentically Galician, he was snapped up for the job and today serves up an array of the finest seafood, shellfish and grilled meats on the island.

What brought you to Ibiza?
It was a conscious choice to make the change and come and live here. I read up on the island and what it had to offer me and realised there was plenty here in all aspects of life, not to mention of course, gastronomy.

What or who inspired you to become a chef?
The word ‘Chef’ is a french term, short of course for Chef de cuisine. Head of the kitchen. To arrive at that point professionally is work, work and more work. The chef’s function – apart from the gastronomic side – has many other facets, remembering that it needs to be run as a business and the design of the menu, ratios, calculations, need to be  arranged so that the whole thing hangs together properly. I’ve studied administration and being chef de cuisine draws on all of these skills. Apart from my studies I learnt basic and fundamental skills as a kid helping my grandmother in her ‘taverna’ feeding local mineworkers traditional lunches. This continued when my parents opened a bar.

Tell us a bit more about your experience?
I was trained in the San Javier Chef School in A Coruña. I learnt the skills required for cooking in high level restaurants, and decided to make it my business to travel around, working in restaurants in regions where their cuisine particularly interested me, from haute cuisine to the more traditional eateries. I’ve worked alongside some very high level professionals, with humility, patience and sometimes downright frustration. In my opinion you don’t get better by playing below your game so I’ve always tried to work with people I would consider to be at a higher level than myself.

What led you to work at BHS?
I answered an ad in the newspaper. When I spoke to the Hostal Salinas guys I liked the clarity and simplicity of their approach and the direction they wanted to go in terms of food and the presentation. In the interview their words were ‘we want a Galician chef who really knows the Galician produce and the traditional cuisine from the region to run our Marisquería’. That plan has been put into action.

How do you describe the style of cuisine at BHS?
‘Clean and honest’. By ‘honest’ I mean we serve what we offer on the menu, simply put. The finest quality of the food on offer in generous quantities, and by ‘clean’ I mean we always strive to make sure that what shines in the dish is the quality and the REAL taste of those ingredients.

What is your signature dish here?
Obviously seafood, shellfish and grilled meats. There are of course Mediterranean elements in the menu which we couldn’t do without here in Ibiza.

How do you describe your style in the kitchen?
I’m not a hothead. I’m prudent, careful, prepared, don’t lose my cool. I think that can be said for me in life as well as in the kitchen.

What is your own favourite type of food – to cook, and to eat?
Perhaps a combination of the sheer quality of Galician produce, prepared with the traditions associated with Basque cuisine and maybe some of the innovation and flair of the Catalans.

What are your favourite restaurants in Ibiza?
I go for anywhere that specialises in a couple of specific things and they’re known and loved for that. I tend to shy away from places with gigantic menus with little structure to them.

What do you like most about living in Ibiza, what keeps you here?
I’m a paid up citizen of the island now! I live amongst Ibicencos and enjoy their company immensely. They say people from the north of Spain are good honest to God folk and I see that in the people on this island as well. I’m at ease here and grateful for their welcoming ways.

What do you do in the winter?
Fortunately since I arrived I’ve had work here in the winter, and this winter should be the same as well, but I’ll still have plenty of time to dedicate to my other passion which is photography, the study of light and colour which Ibiza has in abundance.