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July 21, 2021 - Grown fresh in our fields, seasonal and nutritious, food is a fundamental layer at Six Senses Ibiza. Who better to craft it than Eyal Shani, the Mediterranean chef who loves his veg and proves nothing brings people together more than good food.
Today, a whole-roasted cauliflower would not look out of place at the center of the hottest dining tables in London or New York. But when Eyal Shani opened his first restaurant thirty years ago, cauliflower was not cool. Thanks to Shani, simple vegetarian cooking has become a global phenomenon. His hometown of Tel Aviv has become synonymous with fresh and beautiful plant-based dishes - from chargrilled egg plants to tahini drizzled chickpeas. But when Shani first started out in 1989, the food scene in Tel Aviv was severely lacking. He had to develop his own unique culinary language - one that has spread across the globe like wildfire. This summer, it has found its way to the heart of the Balearics, with a new outpost at Six Senses Ibiza.
The possibilities of how Shani can now develop his art is exciting. The Mediterranean diet is one the healthiest in the world. Combine that with Israeli cuisine, one of the world’s fastest growing culinary trends, and a garden growing local, seasonal produce in soil that is being nurtured by the best practices of restorative agriculture, and you have quite a combination.
“I traveled into the mountains around Jerusalem, felt the wind, saw the vibrant colours and, letter by letter, I began to make a kind of dictionary of Israeli cuisine. I based it on fresh leaves, oregano, olive oil, fava beans and of course local tomatoes and cucumbers. I was the first to roast fish on an open fire, use olive oil and make flatbreads.”
Now the owner of nine restaurants, a Master Chef judge and global ambassador for Israeli cuisine, Shani is famous for waxing lyrical about vegetables. It’s in his DNA. “My grandfather was an agronomist and one of the first vegans in Israel,” he says. With the title of ‘The Cauliflower King’ already under his belt, Shani turned his hand to other lackluster vegetables, giving them a PR makeover and lifting them to new cult status. “Even an ingredient as familiar as the cucumber can be experienced and appreciated differently” he enthuses. It’s worth learning Hebrew just to translate the poetic musings that accompany his latest inventions on Instagram.
To weave his magic, Eyal works closely with local farmers, focusing on produce that is seasonal and organic. “The story doesn’t start in the restaurant but at the farm. Food is like a sentence, with a subject and an object. I work on the subject. The tomatoes we grow give me the right letters to write the sentence.”
At Shani’s new outpost at Six Senses Ibiza, everything is connected to its local source. Ibiza is the main ingredient on the menu. Farm-to-table dining is a concept close to many Israeli hearts, but only two percent of food consumed in Ibiza comes from the home soil. This figure increased slightly during the pandemic, when the borders came crashing down and the importance of self-reliance became clear. Still, an astonishing amount of food continues to be imported from the mainland. Shani aims to revitalize the island’s energy for farm-to-table dining, harnessing Ibiza’s natural abundance of ingredients - from avocados to watermelons, oranges, lemons and Ibiza rock salt. Luckily for Shani, there is also a rich supply of olive oil - “without olive oil I would leave the profession!”
“Ibiza is a blessed place” he says of the island. “The energy. The relationship between the land and sea. The ingredients. You can taste the sun. I will cook in the purest way using seasonal ingredients. I want people to feel that they are eating straight from the seeds and earth they are standing on. Your plate is the fields, growing all around you.”
The menu will change daily, according to Shani’s eccentric whims. But Shani doesn’t cook with ego - he always has community in mind. His menu is inspired by the moods of the people around him. He only cooks in open kitchens, allowing the diners to become part of his process. “We have a unique relationship with our customers. I feel their energy and return it back to them in their food.” His restaurants are adored not just for the avant-garde dishes, but this celebratory, collaborative atmosphere of shared joy.
The principles of community and sustainability are at the heart of Shani’s soulful cooking, in the fields and farmlands, as well as in the kitchen. This is not just a style of cuisine - it’s a way of life.
"Food is like a sentence, with a subject and an object. I work on the subject. The produce we grow gives me the right letters to write the sentence." Eyal Shani