Caty Pieras Ramis, aged 31, is petite, with fine facial features and blonde hair – and she loves knuckle of pork. The Mallorcan chef from Inca combines the traditional, good and solid cuisine of the island with modern gourmet cuisine. Her guests clearly enjoy her creations. For the past three years, Caty has been chef de cuisine at Es Ví, the small restaurant of five-star Castillo Hotel Son Vida.
Most chefs are men. Why is this so?
It’s a tough job. If you cook in a hotel for 1000 people, it’s difficult because you have to work with large heavy pots – so being a man is an advantage. But if the volume of diners is smaller and the pots are smaller, it becomes easier. Another issue is the working hours. If you want to have children, you cannot stay in the kitchen until 1 a.m.
Do you have a family of your own?
I still have no children, but one day I would like to. Hopefully. But I’m 31, so I have time. Every day it becomes more apparent: If you want to have something important, you’ll make it happen. If I want to be a mother, I’ll get it arranged somehow! (Laughs)
Why did you become a chef? Was there a tradition in your family?
Not at all. That was a pretty spontaneous decision after school. I wanted to try the cookery profession. I liked the job from the beginning. In Cala San Vicente in Pollença I underwent an apprenticeship with Cavall Bernat. For five years, I was there throughout the summer, then in winter went to different places. After that I worked for two years at Sant Pau in San Pol de Mar, with Carme Ruscalleda, which has three Michelin stars. From there I went to the Espai Sucre in Barcelona, where I learned a lot about desserts.
What is the philosophy behind your cuisine?
I try to use Mallorcan products. They should be as fresh as possible and delivered from short distances away. Then I begin to compose the dishes – but my cuisine develops constantly, even if the dish is on the menu. We change the temperature, we cook a little longer or shorter. We prepare the meat under steam, not with oil. We sample it several times and it takes time. But we carry out the job with dedication and pleasure, otherwise it wouldn´t work. What is most important: If I can, I take old Mallorcan recipes and develop them into new dishes. Maybe it has nothing to do with the original recipe, but it helps me.
An example, please.
Take the Ensaimada. My cream filling contains Sobrassada. This might at first sound disgusting, but we cook it, take out the meat and keep the oil with the flavour. Sugar and some salt are always added to the cake mixture. And I use the oil of Sobrassada instead of added salt. This gives a spicy note.
You don´t want to keep those recipes secret?
No. If I taste something in another restaurant, I ask the chef how he made it. Why not? No matter how well I imitate it, it will never taste the same. Therefore, there is no reason for a cook not to reveal his recipes.
Do you have a favourite Mallorcan dish?
I love stuffed knuckles of pork. You apparently do also – looking at your face! (Laughs). My mother always cooked traditionally and inspired me.
Do your parents like your food?
I think so, yes; I’ve never asked. But they come twice a year.
How do you know that your taste will appeal to your guests?
All my staff members – cooks and waiters – sample my creations. I need other opinions. Even if someone is not an expert, that doesn´t matter. He could still be a potential customer. I have an employee who started a week ago. He told me, Caty, I can´t do it. I told him: you are mistaken. You’re like a customer, it tastes good or not. By doing this you are helping me.
Has anybody ever complained?
Thank God, never. Recently something very nice happened: a regular customer, a German, came and told me that he would like a specific menu, the one he had eaten the week before. And he wanted a double course of the Ensaimada-dessert, leaving out another course. Instead, I added an extra course. The guest was so pleased that he invited me to have a glass of champagne. The restaurant was full. He said: “Caty, you were spectacular,” stood up and applauded. Then the guests at other tables did the same. When I went home later, I thought: ‘That’s better than any salary. I could not bear criticism well, though. If someone said to me, that a bit of salt was lacking, I would say: OK. But if something really doesn´t have any flavour: I would die of shame.
How can one become a chef?
I went back to Mallorca from Vic and had no work. Then I left my CV everywhere and I was employed directly. Apparently my old bosses spoke well of me. It is my first job as a boss. I was probably lucky that the former boss had just left. Well, maybe I deserve it. (Laughs)
You head a four-person kitchen with two men. Before there was a purely women’s team …
You are well informed. (Laughs). We were four girls, but that was pure coincidence. But I prefer mixed teams.
Was the mood among women better or worse? There is supposed to be more rivalry …
No, that’s a fairy tale. Everyone’s different; some women might be competitive, but some men are too. Between us there were absolutely no thoughts of rivalry.
Do you shout sometimes?
Almost never. But yesterday was such a day. I was so happy with the dishes until the end: there were a few less successful dishes. But I know that my people can do better and that annoys me. That hurts! And then I may shout sometimes: “You know how it works”. But screaming and anger drain too much energy. We need discipline, but we are not in the military. There is always the right moment, both for fun and hard work.
What do you do differently as a female chef in comparison to a man?
I think men sometimes have to stand in the foreground, with the motto, “Here I am.” I do not think this should be. My motto is: “Show me how you work and I respect you.” And the more you shout, the less I respect. We are all individuals: When Toni started here in my team, I realized quickly that he was nervous when the guests arrived. I have touched him and said: “Toni, stay calm. Run and do your job but stay calm. “Carmen, my other team member needs her rest, I cannot exert any pressure. On Jordi for example, I can exercise just the right pressure, then he works perfectly. Everybody needs treating a little differently.
Opening hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 19.30 – 22.30
Wed., Tues. and Thursday only for reservations in groups
Every last Tuesday of the month a cooking course takes place. Caty Pieras prepares two dishes with the participants and then eats it together with them.