Passion, pleasure and paella: step inside the kitchen at Son Bunyola
What makes a unique and unforgettable meal? For Samuel G. Galdón, executive chef at Virgin Limited Edition’s luxury Son Bunyola Hotel, it’s passion – a passion for food and a passion for delighting and surprising the guests.
“Our guests are the protagonists of this play – they set the standards and we are here to cater to their absolute enjoyment,” Samuel tells Virgin Red. “If a guest wants to dine in the middle of our 1,300-acre estate by candlelight, or experience something special for their departure, we’ll do our utmost to make it happen for them.”
Samuel is also a passionate advocate of the ‘farm-to-fork’ ethos, where fresh, seasonal ingredients are sourced from on-site gardens and orchards as well as the local area.
“At the Son Bunyola estate, our on-property gardens supply many of our vegetables, we have bee hives for supplying delicious fresh honey, and soon we’ll be able to use Malvasia grapes for wine from our newly-planted vineyards. On a farm like this we almost have an obligation to work the land,” he explains.
“We are surrounded by the sea, so unsurprisingly our menus often feature seafood. Local fish we source from nearby markets is incomparably fresh and delicious, and it’s always a special pleasure to use ingredients provided by the island.
“The menus revolve around a healthier kitchen with zero waste. We use all the vegetable offal to make broths and infusions - we are always amazed at the intense flavours that can be achieved."
Hailing from Cáceres in Spain’s Extremadura region, Samuel began his career in Mallorca where he first met Richard Branson. He went on to gain experience in Barcelona, Shanghai, and Ibiza, including Michelin-star training, but his connection to the island remained strong and he’s thrilled to be back.
“I started my professional career here many years ago at a wonderful hotel where haute cuisine was made to an outstanding level,” he explains. “It was an exciting time where I learned so much. I have also cooked on three continents, and that gives me a very cosmopolitan vision of food. I am passionate about my work and consider cooking as a way of life. Years ago, I came to Mallorca to learn - now I return to teach; it’s very rewarding.”
With such extensive knowledge and a boundless love of food, Samuel excitedly shared what guests new to Mallorcan cuisine can expect.
“Mallorcan cuisine is extensive with spectacular products, and it’s fantastic to introduce guests to the wonders of the island. Now, for example, we are experimenting with ensaimadas, a sweet cake with thin puff pastry layers. We bake them fresh for breakfast and we are getting a fantastic response from our guests.
“We’re also trying to recreate a wonderful dish called Mero-Cochinillo – a surf and turf dish based on a local fish called Grouper which is combined with a small portion of Balearic black pig. It’s a crazy combination, but somehow it works, and the result is amazing. We are also rediscovering native Xeica flour and using it to make sourdough bread. It’s very aromatic and it gives the bread a beautiful crumb and crunchy crust.”
Overseeing restaurants Sa Terrassa and the soon-to-open Sa Tafona, as well as private dining, it’s unsurprising that Samuel chuckled when asked what a normal day is like. “In Son Bunyola there are no normal days!”
After starting the morning with a coffee and fresh croissant, Samuel attends a few meetings before checking everything is perfect with breakfast. “When the food service begins, I supervise the cooking – the colours, the temperatures, everything. I also like interacting with our customers as talking to them gives me a very clear vision of their needs. It’s always nice to receive their feedback as it’s an improvement process.”
Collaboration is key to the success of Son Bunyola, but much like every aspect of the property; even meetings are taken up a notch. “Many afternoons we go up to the orchard to brainstorm ideas so that we can constantly deliver new dishes and new experiences to our guests. Together with my kitchen collaborators, we prepare new proposals and try to relate our ideas to the flavours of the island,” he explains.
Riffing on classical dishes is normal for Samuel’s team, and he enthusiastically shared details of the playful reinvention of tapas available in the hotel’s second restaurant, which is soon to open. “This is our little secret. The Sa Tafona restaurant, which will only be available to our guests, houses the historic oil press and is a wonderful museum where the farm's olive oil was made,” he shares. “It is also a charming restaurant where we reinvent Spanish tapas with a contemporary twist. Stews with products from the sea and the garden are mixed with a great selection of wines that accentuate their prominence. It’s a little luxury for the senses.”
A spin on a Spanish classic is also Samuel’s favourite dish on the menu: “We make paella-type thin-layer rice dishes with langoustines, lobster, vegetables and chicken that are served in their own pans and eaten with a spoon. It’s tremendously delicious!”
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* Earn and spend at Son Bunyola is subject to availability and blackout dates.