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Interview with David Raya: Chef at La Despensa del Barón

After 16 years behind the stove, David Raya has come to Posada Terra Santa in 2018 to take over the helm in the kitchen at La Despensa del Barón. The origins of David’s career as a culinary professional lie in Majorca. Having worked as a chef in hotels on the Majorcan coast, David decided to take a risk and take the leap to Barcelona under the orders of the Roca brothers. He spent the next 8 years on the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, working as a chef at Rocabar and Rocamoo, the latter boasting a Michelin star.

After such an enriching period, David decided to return to the island to extend his gastronomy knowledge with Igor Rodríguez Sanz, Spanish tapas and pintxos champion, and Fernando Perez Arellano, with whom he learnt haute cuisine techniques in a few months.  Over the next 2 years, David formed part of the Hesperia NH Villamil in Peguera team as sous chef, managing up to 4 restaurants inside the hotel under the chef, Toni Mauro.

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David, at what moment in your life did you discover that you wanted to become a chef?

At a time in my life when I felt lost, something that may occur to any chef throughout his/her professional career, a great person called Toni Mauro suggested turning my life around. All of this happened in the middle of a service: Toni looked me in the eyes and asked me why I was not a boss. He saw it clearly. It was the moment to take the leap. He said I was sufficiently prepared. As a result of this revealing conversation, my world was turned around and I started to become more ambitious and to have more confidence in myself.

What are the main challenges a chef must face on a daily basis?  

As part of the daily routine, a chef must face a series of very different challenges.  On one hand, he/she must be able to carry out kitchen duties. He/she must be a leader capable of coordinating and motivating a team of people in order to fulfil some common goals. And client service must not be forgotten as the chef is the visible face at La Despensa del Barón and it is his job to do his utmost to ensure that the client goes away with a good taste in the mouth and wants to repeat the experience.  

What attracted you most to Posada Terra Santa and encouraged you to accept this professional challenge?

Posada Terra Santa is a unique place in its category thanks to its cosy and familiar atmosphere.  Working in such a space with a highly qualified human team such as that in the dining room, reception and kitchen is an authentic luxury. In fact, more than work colleagues, we are a family that shares experiences, which is perceived by the client and this feeling is passed on. Another factor that pushed me to accept this new challenge is the trust placed in me by the entire tem. Particularly Matías Provvidenti, my predecessor in the kitchen at La Despensa, was strongly committed to me from the very first day and he entrusted the duties that he began in this kitchen in his day to me from the very outset. Of course, the trust of Tomás, the hotel director, as well as Carmen and Ignacio, the owners, has been decisive. 

What type of cuisine can we find at La Despensa del Barón?

At La Despensa del Barón, we are constantly looking for new flavours in order to be able to offer a culinary experience that amazes diners. In our kitchen, there is only room for the finest ingredients, products from the region and the most home-made flavours. It is difficult, but if I had to define La Despensa del Barón menu in a few words, I think that Mediterranean cuisine with Asian influences would be the category that best describes it.

Can we find any typical recipe from Majorca on the menu?

Of course. The menu at La Despensa del Barón is full of references to the Majorcan recipe book, such as our monkfish with Majorcan casserole accompanied by grilled artichoke in dry garlic breadcrumbs or our Sóller red prawn croquettes.

What inspired for you in the elaboration of the menu? Do you have any reference?

Our menu is inspired by home-made cuisine with Mediterranean origins and does not stop being a reflection of everything my maestros have taught me throughout my professional career.  At La Despensa del Barón, we focus on each and every one of the details and we put all of our love and effort into our preparations so as not to leave anybody feeling indifferent, even the most discerning of palates. And we always manage to do so! You cannot imagine how gratifying it is to see the face of our diners on tasting each bite, nodding their heads to say delicious!  

Could you recommend a dish from the menu?

For a chef, it is difficult to choose just one dish. I am very satisfied with all of the preparations that make up the menu at La Despensa del Barón; otherwise, they would not have formed part of the menu. However, if I had to make a recommendation, I would opt for the garlic prawn croquettes or the Majorca Sol, undoubtedly two surprising options for all palates.

What does La Despensa del Barón offer its diners that they cannot find in any other restaurant in Palma?

La Despensa del Barón is a space to calmly savour the Island of Majorca bite by bite. This relaxed atmosphere in the city’s old quarter allows you to get away from everyday life and at the same time it is so cosy that hours spent chatting, eating and drinking will pass as if they were seconds.

What is your vision of La Despensa del Barón over the forthcoming years?

It is evident that Majorca is a destination with great tourism appeal for foreigners, a very interesting group for us. Even so, we expect to continue growing within the city of Palma and become a culinary reference not only for foreign tourists, but also in winning over the locals.  

In which direction do you think the cuisine of the future is going to evolve?

My opinion is that in the middle of the 21st century, everything (or almost everything) has already been invented. Although we are based on the traditional, it is increasingly common to use products and techniques that allow textures to be added or modified and certain flavours to be altered. For this reason, I think that everything molecular is going to be a special feature in the near future.

What advice would you give to somebody who dreams of becoming a culinary professional in the future?

Hotel and catering is a job that is hard work that has very little to do with what is shown on television programmes. It may seem obvious, but it must not be forgotten that the diner expects to savour our recipes in a certain period of time and, in return, is willing to pay out a certain amount of money. This means that the client commitment is huge and there can be no mistakes; otherwise we would cause a bad impression and it would be difficult to regain their trust. In order to provide an error-free service, long hours of study, hard work and taking in all the knowledge of the great professionals is essential. Effort and dedication are the keys to becoming a good culinary professional.

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