Anne Sijmonsbergen’s Ibicencan Food Revolution

Posted on October 17, 2017

Words: Olivia Ebeling

Images: Tamara Sini

Blessed with fantastic natural produce, stunning scenery and charming architecture, it’s no longer a secret that Ibiza, which used to mostly make headlines thanks to its world famous nightlife, is now a veritable foodie hotspot full of incredible gourmet destinations. A key figure in championing the White Isle’s authentic culinary culture and delicious local ingredients, organic farmer and cookbook author Anne Sijmonsbergen has helped to put one of this season’s most unique and respected dining experiences on the map: El Portalon Ibiza in Dalt Vila.

Created by the team behind the popular Babylon Beach chiringuito, the kitchen of which Anne was – and still is – supplying with fruit and vegetables from her organic farm Can Riero, it was a match made in foodie heaven when the passionate cook decided to join forces with El Portalon owner Justin Mallet and the group’s executive chef Filippo Alberi to take her island-inspired creations to cuisine level at El Portalon. Working with the seasonal produce from Anne’s farm and inspired by the recipes from her tome Eivissa, The Ibiza Cookbook, the culinary powerhouse and the Italian kitchen master have achieved to combine their individual skills and personal aesthetic to create something very special indeed. Here, Anne tells us about her inspiration and taking El Portalon to the next level…

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Many people know you for your Ibiza cookbook. How long have you been on the island?
I have been in Ibiza for 15 years and my husband and I have owned the organic farm for 13 years. One day my husband asked me why we shouldn’t grow our own stuff, because he knows it’s a passion of mine, and so we just started. And then I began to notice all these amazing things – for example, the plants that grow on the fortress walls in Dalt Vila are caper berries. I love going foraging and picking up things to use in the restaurants.

What is your culinary background?
I trained as a chef at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Boston before moving to London for work for five years. Coming from a real foodie family, my interest in food kept growing and my company was very understanding and allowed me to take time off to take part in cooking classes and to travel to do courses all over the world. In my childhood home, we always used to grow our own vegetables and fruits and preserve them, making jams and pickles and cheeses from scratch, so when I moved to our farm in Ibiza it just got the better of me. I just found the nature that surrounded me, with all the weird herbs and wild asparagus and mushrooms, very inspiring and so I wrote Eivissa, The Ibiza Cookbook.

How did you get involved with El Portalon?
It took me five years to write the book, and during that process I was also selling our farm produce to restaurants like Babylon Beach, El Portalon and Macao Café, as well as offering seasonal ‘family boxes’ of fruit and vegetables that people can come and collect from the farm. Justin and I got talking and he said, ‘Why don’t you brand the food [at El Portalon] and we get Filippo to put his cuisine touches on it?’. I always thought he was an amazing person and restaurateur, so we started talking at the beginning of 2017 and I just fell in love with this place – I mean, how can you not? It’s so beautiful and full of history. It just had the right vibe and the right mix of people and sometimes timings and the stars align, and when they do, you can’t walk away.

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This has been El Portalon’s first ‘proper’ season. How has it been?
We’ve had an outstanding season. We set the bar high with standards and they just didn’t come down. I can’t believe how well Filippo has done in maintaining them, whatever it takes. And that’s so important, because eating out is a special treat and it should be fun with great quality food. And we’ve got a great vibe here. Justin’s done an amazing job in putting the right team together and all of us really love what we do. We’re all a little bit off kilter, and what we do is a little bit different. All of us really love food and we’re very happy to be here.

How do you work together with Filippo?
We sit down together and just talk about food… and then he translates it into the dishes. It’s important that everybody gets to have their say and that Filippo can shine through with his ideas. He is using my knowledge of fresh, local food and the aesthetic of my food combinations but then he adds a major piece to that and I’m very respectful of the boundaries. I wouldn’t ever tell him what to do, because the magic he does in the professional kitchen is something completely different from the cooking I do at home.

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We hear you have quite a spectacular kitchen at El Portalon?
Yes, it’s quite extraordinary. Filippo had the chance to design it together with Justin, so it is really well kitted out. We have two walk-in fridges where we maintain extremely high health and safety standards and a reverse osmosis machine that clears our water really well and enables us to stop using plastic bottles, for example. It took us eight months to get the kitchen to this standard. It’s funny, because the building is hundreds of years old and people can’t believe we have a kitchen like this in Dalt Vila!

Has it been tricky to turn your recipes into restaurant creations?
A lot of the recipes are based on my cookbook and my research into Mediterranean food and the produce we have here, but Filippo’s skills make it the reason why people come to eat out. I’m a great cook and I love cooking for guests, but Fillippo ‘tricks out’ my ideas. I’m always really excited when we do the first tastings to see what he does. We’re lucky that our styles really complement each other. Filippo’s had a tough summer because he was building the menu and keeping the kitchen under control for two restaurants, so he has had to manage the teams a lot more than an executive chef would do ordinarily. We are super lucky to have him because he has got amazing training and experience and he takes his job very seriously. We have not had a single dish go back all summer. For a new restaurant, that’s amazing.

Further Information
o: Weds – Sat: 20.00 – 23.30
w: www.elportalonibiza.com
insta: www.instagram.com/organic_annie_ibiza

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