Meet the chef: Pepe Costa – Wild Beets
There’s a food revolution happening at the moment. It’s been brewing since the 1970s but these days being vegetarian is far removed from the barefoot lentil-eating hippies of yesteryear. Food awareness is emerging as the boldest direction the culinary world has taken since, well, sliced bread. Leading the way in Ibiza is Wild Beets in Santa Gertrudis, the latest venture from Cliff Grubin of Sejuiced juice bar on Benirras Beach and iPurify juice cleanses.
Pepe Costa heads up the innovative and wholesome kitchen that pumps out a menu of mostly raw dishes that defy any fixed ideas of vegetarian cuisine. Matching the skills and techniques gleaned in culinary school with years of working professional kitchens, Pepe creates beautiful dishes that bring the palate alive. And almost as a side note, each plate is supremely healthy, carefully calibrated to deliver a dense nutritional boost. Luckily for residents and visitors alike, Wild Beets is open all year round. We stole a moment with Pepe to talk food, life and, food.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Valencia, the city of the paella. My inspiration was my mother. She said to me “Do you want to study or work?” and I said work so she sent me to the kitchen! I went to culinary school in Valencia and afterwards went to work in a classic Basque restaurant. The Basque food is just… well, it’s one of the best cuisines in the world.
What brought you to Ibiza?
I came here around four years ago, to work. For me, as a chef, it’s a good mix of cultures and ideas. Ibiza is a meeting place; I’ve learned so much in my time here. I worked for two years in a rural spa hotel then came here to Wild Beets.
At what point in your life did you think ‘Yes, this is the job for me’?
I realised it working here at Wild Beets. When I got the job I was in a moment of doubt about where I was going and then when I came here, Cliff was so open. I really liked the health aspect of the concept, that’s what convinced me. I am learning so much here. It takes a lot of effort to break old habits but it gets easier to be healthier when you start to understand the processes and routines of the body.
How do you describe the type of cuisine at Wild Beets?
The simplest way is to say it’s healthy cuisine. It’s a system of life and there has to be a consciousness – about the environment, the body. Food is a way of transmitting harmony via a plate. It is about balance and of course, enjoyment.
How do you describe your style in the kitchen?
Very free, lots of creativity and passion. And calm, no shouting, no stress, if you are stressed then the food notices it. Each product needs the time it needs to taste its best. Above all the base must be solid, the techniques are very traditional but from there we can create.
What is your signature dish here?
That’s really hard to answer because we have lots of very popular dishes. I suppose that the Macro Bowl is one that represents Wild Beets quite well – it’s a complete plate, very healthy and very tasty. For desserts it has to be the superfood cake – no one can believe it when they see it. It’s a beautiful deep turquoise colour and so smooth.
What are your thoughts on food having curative properties?
When you make food for your friends or family it sustains your body and mind, it’s nurturing those things. It’s all love. It all passes to the plate, between the cook, the plate and the eater. If it’s done with love it will be received with love. That’s what I aim for in my work and in my life.
What do you like most about living and working in Ibiza?
For me it’s the freedom. In life and work. Wild Beets is a very collaborative kitchen. I am just learning so much here. I love the tranquillity of winter too. The restaurant is open but we have a bit more time. We create new dishes, we try a lot of things, it’s all about exploration and investigation. It’s great!