Matteo Bartaletti, the new executive chef at STK Ibiza, who brings with him a wealth of culinary experience, discusses the differences in food trends seen in the UK versus Ibiza as well as what he predicts to be the next big thing in the industry.
What’s your background and how did you get into the industry?
Being the youngest of four children, with a 10 years difference, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother. Although I enjoyed cooking, I decided not to enroll myself into a hospitality placement at school, as at the time it wasn’t considered to be a good career path. Instead, I opted to study accounting – something I didn’t really enjoy, but to a degree it has helped me in the management of a professional kitchen.
I’ve been cooking now professionally for 15 years. My passion for travel and love of food have taken me to work all around the world including Michelin Starred restaurants in Italy, iconic Harrods London, private luxury yachts cruising the Mediterranean, award winning restaurants in Australia, to Dubai’s Burj Al Arab. And now I’m looking forward to contributing to the STK experience with the Ibiza team this summer 2018.
Where has your inspiration come from?
Much of my inspiration comes from my travels. Understanding the social environment and agriculture of a country and absorbing what it is that people do with their local produce is what defines their lifestyle and creates their culture and identity.
How do you bring innovation into the business?
Stepping outside the box, literally and figuratively. Moving away from the familiar, putting yourself out there with an open mind and a good attitude. I like to keep up with current trends and use my observations and learnings to anticipate the future needs of a market, which encourages me to bring ideas to the team with great passion and enthusiasm.
Who do you admire within the industry and why?
Jamie Oliver! He is a great business man who has used his passion to create an empire but more importantly, I admire his social work and educational campaigning on food. I see him as family man, unpretentious and a chef of the people with very similar values to mine.
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How does the STK business in Ibiza compare to the London site in terms of look and feel and performance?
No matter the location, when visiting STK, you will find yourself in a high energy environment with our signature elements, including a DJ spinning beats alongside a centrally-located bar, horns on the wall, low back ivory clad booths and an all-round great vibe! As Ibiza is known for high energy holidays, STK Ibiza fits perfectly, with a stage amongst booths, allowing for dance and featured entertainment whilst you dine.
In terms of trends, how does the foodie scene in Ibiza compare to that in London?
As one of the most trend-setting cities globally for food and beverage, London will always have the competitive edge. However, Ibiza is certainly up and coming and restauranteurs are becoming more established, bringing a strong focus on innovation, high quality and generally upgrading the overall dining experience, rather than simply following the typical Ibiza party scene.
What are STK’s overall expansion plans?
STK is owned by The One Group however, STK Ibiza is actually a franchise of the STK brand owned by Foxhole Holdings, a Dubai based company. In the past five years STK has expanded largely through a mix of licensed and management property deals. The One Group have recently opened STK JBR in Dubai and later this year will open their second site there; STK Downtown. Additionally STK has four properties under construction; STK Doha at the Ritz-Carlton hotel as well as STK San Diego, STK Mexico City and STK San Juan.
What are the opportunities and challenges for the business going forward?
With the current internal expansion, STK has lots of exciting opportunities to look forward to. We are all about the overall experience, from the beginning of your night, right through to the end. Our aim is to better connect with guests through an enhanced experience whether that be at the bar, restaurant, events or online. We put a lot of resources into grassroots marketing as we believe that personal touches are always important.
As for challenges there will always be a little healthy competition with other venues. STK tends to find itself in vibrant cities with plenty of restaurant and bar alternatives so it’s important that we stand out and create an experience to remember. The enormous amount of choice has also resulted in guests wanting more for their money so it’s key that we maintain people’s interest. We do this by offering high quality produce, service and entertainment.
What’s the next big thing for the casual dining industry?
The casual dining industry is expanding rapidly. The market is particularly interested in a more accessible food and beverage scene focusing on great quality but with a more laidback style of service. Entertainment is key with a strong focus on music, lighting and overall ambience to create the perfect memorable setting.