Creativity is not just what you do. It’s how you relate to the world.
Stepping through the heavy wooden doors of the Ibiza Food Studio I felt a flash. By the time chef-proprietor Boris Buono introduced himself my head was floating a few inches above my spine. Here was something: tucked in the heart of Sa Penya (Ibiza’s old fisherman’s quarter) amidst broken paving stones, rubbish, feral cats and wary neighbours, a secret chamber of serious sensual delights.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise for future guests of the Food Studio, suffice to say it was the best meal I’ve had in Ibiza. Superb food and drink were a given (Boris is consummate chef with a stellar CV) but what made the night glow was being part of a creative process. Perched around a table made from antique ship beams, eating delicate cured salmon off handmade pottery plates, laughing at each others’ attempts to play wine-critic, our little band of new-made friends was part of a delicious conspiracy to make something beautiful of life’s necessities.
Boris reminded me that the abstract notion of creative work is grounded in concrete attributes. If you are caught in the motions “being creative” stop. Do the concrete practices instead. Approach life with Craft, Risk, Energy, Attention, Talent, Intellect, Vision, and Effort and you can’t help but be creative.
Craft: Craft is the ability to perfect every element to create a triumphant whole. Boris began his career at two-Michelin starred Noma, aka the best restaurant in the world. He has worked all over Europe, honing his craft as a head chef, consultant and food expert. His mastery is evident in the richness of a prawn-infused ailoi, the unctuousness of a clam and mussel broth, the sweet-tart-creamy white chocolate, mango and coconut pudding.
Risk: Running a tiny Food Studio is not the charted path to culinary fame and fortune. Nor is doing fine dining in Ibiza without massive corporate backing. Boris is unfazed. Not because he didn’t considered the risk to his finances and place in the restaurant industry food chain, but because he did and decided to do it anyway. Creative risk takers aren’t careless but they know what they value.
Energy: “I’m grateful for the culinary industry,” Boris says. “I would have been in trouble without it. I have a lot of energy to channel.” The air around him crackles. In addition to planning, shopping, cooking, and hosting he sourced, crafted, or restored every item in the Food Studio from the antique monogrammed cutlery, to the light fixture made from a fisherman’s basket, to the hand-painted chairs. He smiles when asked how long it took to transform the salvaged assortment into Studio fittings: “A day or two.”
Attention: Boris’s attention to detail verges on the uncanny. I took photos while he plated the starters. Without looking up from the prawns he was arranging on slates, he directed me to a spot on the opposite side of the work-surface: “Just that way a little, it’s the best light.” Nothing escapes him: the precise number of salt flakes on a slice of roast lamb, the level of our wine glasses, the room’s emotional energy.
Talent: One aspect of creativity you can’t teach is talent. It is ingrained, runs deeper than learning or logic. “When I was first in the kitchen it was like coming home,” Boris says. “Like a language you haven’t spoken in a long time, but you know you can speak.” Everyone has talent but you have to be honest. You have to identify and nurture your talent, not fake what you think will make you cool or rich.
Intellect: Boris sits at the foot of the table while we greedily attack our main course, chewing a rye roll, riffing on cookery, fishing, the history of Sa Penya, pizzarias, Es Vedra, kitchen culture (no to Gordon Ramsey-style shouting; yes to leadership by example) and politics. Like most creative minds, his wanders far beyond the boundaries of his profession, gathering information and stimulation that feeds back into his work.
Vision: Boris could run a conventional restaurant, but doesn’t. The Studio expresses his vision of food as a source of healing and harmony. “Channeling energy as a chef is profound,” he says. “You’re in the middle of the wheel of life. To put food in another person’s mouth is a huge trust.”
Effort: Not long ago the Ibiza Food Studio was an abandoned apartment on a crumbling alley. “There was nothing here except the work-surface, the stairs, dirt and cockroaches.” Boris signed the lease, rolled up his sleeves and scrubbed. Once it was spotless and bug-free, he foraged for furniture and fittings. Now he scours the market daily, digging for perfect clams, picking unblemished plum tomatoes. When the meal is finished, he and sous chef Michel clean the kitchen, wash the dishes, put the wine goblets back in glass cabinet and blow out the candles. In the morning, he starts again.
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