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Food for Thought

HOW LOCAL PRODUCE ADDS TO THE PIKES FLAVOUR IN THE WORDS OF PIKES HEAD CHEF LEE MILNE

This is my third year at Pikes and when I started I found it can take a while to settle into life on the island and at this hotel. Ibiza politics change year on year, and there are new challenges and new adjustments; a family man needs time to secure all bases, home and work. It helps to have an understanding wife. Thankfully Charlene understood when I called her one night to tell her, “I’ll be late home tonight love, I’m cooking dinner for Howard Marks.” She knew how much it meant to me, he was a bloody legend! Memorable moments are made here for staff and guests alike. I remember when Pete Doherty once walked into the kitchen asking if I could teach him to cook. Cook up what exactly?

My ideal food world would be 100% fresh, local organic produce right through the board but this isn’t realistic right now. Ibiza is trying to supply this demand but still falls short in summer as it gets excessively high. You can still find organic but it’s not always local and local produce is the tendency with conscious consumers. Of the 500,000 mouths a week that are fed in Ibiza in summer, a rising percentage
of that audience are searching for the local experience and, although there is an incentive in Ibiza to turn fallow ground productive, there is still a considerable shortfall.

The Pikes kitchen already works with a couple of local farmers but produce is limited to tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes, aubergine as well as some herbs. Juan’s farm is the one you drive past on the way up the lane to Pikes and his spuds are banging and make terrific chips! It makes sense that you are eating something that grew less than 500 metres away and was picked that morning. We also always use locally farmed, free-range chicken as it’s just so easy to source here.

The quality of the local produce is high but there still lacks education and communication between farmers on production cycles. Sometimes you can’t get produce, other times there’s too much of the same. There is a problem with seasonal local produce and it’s hard to write a fixed menu around it, which is why at Pikes we’ve decided to work with specials, incorporating what we can find in season on the day, then changing accordingly. It’s the same scenario with fresh fish, it really does depend on what the fisherman bring in on that day, there are no guarantees apart from freshness.

During my time as a chef back in Britain, I’ve always worked in classic formal service situations with plated food. Many people still feel that eating is simply just the way to satisfy hunger. You choose your dish and hang onto it until the end of the meal, rarely encouraging others to eat from it. Mediterranean eating is a different vibe and it’s a vibe that fits the Pikes ambience. Pikes is a relaxed place, it’s fun and social, and we feel that this should continue into the food experience too. I love our family style eating, it feels… well, family! People don’t eat from their plate, they eat from the table, sharing flavours and textures, and coming together in mind, body and spirit over these elements, over the emotions stirred by it.

Eating should be fun, bringing your chosen dinner date closer, even with a square metre of table top between you. We are always looking to feed this experience at Pikes.

I’ll never forget last year when the world- famous Spanish guitarist, Paco Fernandez, played a Flamenco rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ – the entire restaurant got up and were dancing, waving their hands in the air… it was priceless.

At the collective forefront of a Pikes experience is where I wish our food to be, not centre stage. I don’t want it to speak louder than any other essential component, I simply wish it to be in line with the fabulous music, drink and people that you find here.

We experimented with DJ menus last year. Harvey’s years on the West Coast of America revealed his love for Mexican food, and his reasoning was it is food that leaves room for party – I think he’s absolutely right. We’re working together again on a special menu for his Mercury Rising nights and I’d love to explore more ideas like this; sharing experiences with colleagues and clients will help us to define Pikes in its gastronomical personality.

This year, once again, we are opening our kitchen to other chefs promoting different cuisine to our own. Pikes will be a cultural platform for food and it certainly gives you guests some unique dining experiences without having to leave the hotel. Richard Turner, the man behind Hawksmoor, Pitt Cue Co. and more will be returning this summer to present his incredible meat feast again and keep an eye out for some other celebrity guest chefs here over the summer – one thing’s for sure, it won’t be Pete Doherty!

Find out more about the food and drink options at Pikes this summer and how you can join us here

Credits

Words: Lee Milne

Images: Dan Wilton