Interview: Massimo Merola, seafood chef

BEACHOUSE Ibiza sits like a jewel in front of the glittering Mediterranean Sea. It’s no wonder the restaurant is famous for its seafood dishes. This season sees a massive push towards delivering the best quality, wild caught, sustainable fish on the island. We’re talking absolute masterpieces of marine magic. Chef Massimo Merola hails from Turin and is in charge of turning these magnificent fish into culinary works of art.

How did you come to work at BEACHOUSE Ibiza?

I first came to Ibiza on holiday. I had some friends here and really liked it. So, I started to work the seasons. Now I come to work the summer and then in the winter I go to Thailand. For me, BEACHOUSE Ibiza is a place where I can really work to a certain standard. It’s my first season here and it feels really exciting. We’re getting such beautiful produce in; it’s great to be able to cook such high quality fish.

What led you to become a chef?

I’ve been working in restaurants since I was around 22 years old in Italy. I love this work, it suits me really well. There were various people in my career who supported me and helped me. In the beginning I moved around a lot because I just wanted to learn everything, all the different techniques from different chefs. Then I worked in London and Barcelona before Ibiza.

Can you explain the new direction BEACHOUSE Ibiza is taking with seafood?

This year, more than anything, it’s all about the fish. All the fish we are getting in is caught in the wild and that means we know the quality is good. Nothing is farmed. We’re doing whole fish between two and five kilos – for anywhere from two to seven people. We’re also doing smaller servings too. We’ve got sea bream, sole, turbot and when it’s available, wild sea bass. All of the fish are shipped fresh from the mainland.

How do you prepare the fish?

Everything must be very exact because we are dealing with big fish. There are two of us on the team. We measure everything and then calculate the time it will take to bake. There are rules and formulations we follow because it must always come out the same and everything depends on the weight of the fish. We have two ways of doing it. We bake the fish in salt, which is very traditional both here in Spain and in Italy, and we also bake the whole fish with potatoes, thyme, white wine, cherry tomatoes and a few things I won’t tell you!

What products from Ibiza excite you?

Salt. The salt from the island has a certain flavour – it’s really good.

What is your favourite dish on the BEACHOUSE Ibiza menu?

I love the Insalata di Branzino. It’s the best ceviche in Ibiza – very similar to the way they make it in Peru. And of course, I love the baked fish with cherry tomatoes.

What kind of food do you like to eat when you are not working?

Well, Mediterranean food, naturally. And because I spend a lot of time in Thailand I also love Thai food.