Mallorcan chef Santi Taura. | Tarek Serraj

This week, instead of recommending one particular restaurant, I recommend four, all owned by chef Santi Taura! I have eaten at three of them so far. Each time the food, the service and the views were exceptional, so I have no doubt that the last experience will be just as great. Meanwhile, I decided to talk to the man behind the brand to find out what inspired him to start, and what motivates him to keep getting better and better.

Chef Santi Taura is celebrated for his innovative approach to traditional Mallorcan cuisine. With an unswerving dedication to preserving the island’s gastronomic heritage, Santi’s restaurants have become emblematic of his commitment to redefining culinary experiences. His professional journey began in his hometown of Lloseta, where he transformed a century-old family blacksmith shop into his flagship restaurant. Here, he artfully melded modern techniques with age-old recipes, breathing new life into forgotten dishes. His reverence for locally sourced ingredients and age-old cooking methods has led to a revival of traditional Mallorcan flavours that might have otherwise faded away.

The success of DINS Santi Taura led to the inception of three other restaurants over time, while the original moved to Palma as well, leaving the space in Lloseta for what is now known as their “central kitchen”. Santi’s restaurants follow his culinary philosophy, where each dish becomes a narrative, narrating the story of Mallorca’s past and present. His relentless pursuit of excellence has garnered international recognition and numerous accolades, showcasing his ability to blend culinary innovation with a deep-rooted respect for his cultural heritage.

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My colleague Amanda and I met Santi in the lobby of El Llorenç Parc de Mar Hotel that hosts two of his four restaurants: Dins Santi Taura on the ground floor and Restaurant Urba on the rooftop. He greeted us with a broad smile and offered to make us a coffee himself, rather than asking one of his staff to do so. I liked him straight away! I imagine high cuisine chefs to be at least slightly arrogant if not to have ego the size of a house, but this guy was different.

Santi told us that he became a chef “by accident”. At the age of 14, when it was time to choose a career, this son of a blacksmith and a housewife had no idea where to turn. He heard that dad’s friend’s son was studying to become a chef and this piqued his interest. One day a teacher asked everyone what they wanted to study further. His classmates were saying things like a dentist or a lawyer and looked at him like he was “un bicho raro” (a strange bug) when he said that he wanted to be a chef. In that moment he knew that would become his calling. I wondered where Santi’s classmates were now, while he turned out to be one of the most successful chefs – if not The One - on the island?!

Llet Encallada, a dessert from Formentera. Photo: Tarek Serraj

Santi’s professor was Joan Abrines of Celler de Ca’n Carrossa and he did his practical experience at the restaurant. At 18, he spent one summer working at La Residencia in Deya, immersing himself into high end cuisine right from the start. He later worked at a restaurant in Porto Pi for a while and then went to a hotel in Can Picafort where he began as kitchen help. At just 22 years of age, Santi became the youngest head chef on the island. At 26 he returned to Lloseta and opened his first restaurant - Santi Taura - in the space previously occupied by Ca’n Carrossa. His former professor, Joan Abrines, was the first on the island to offer a tasting menu, and Santi decided to do something similar, but, again, in his own way. As Lloseta is very small and people talk, Santi used this gossip as feedback and a way to improve his menu (changing it weekly), his service and his space. He was doing his own market research before anyone else around him and reinvented tasting menus in the process, all the while improving and modernising traditional Mallorcan cuisine. Over time more and more restaurants began offering tasting menus, essentially copying Santi´s ideas. We joked about a famous quote by Nikola Tesla that said something like: “I don´t care that they are copying my ideas. I care that they don’t have any of their own.” On a serious note, these copycats pushed Santi to keep reinventing himself, to always do something different from the others, to keep being “un bicho raro”.

So, the next step was to open Dins Santi Taura, and to start making dishes “with a lot of history behind them”. In order to make historical dishes one needs to know their history – where do these dishes come from, why they were no longer made, and how to remake them with the ingredients that are available today. This was, once again, Santi´s point of differentiation and his way to shake off the copycats. He told us about a dish with plum sauce whose history goes back to Roman times. If you did not know that, Romans founded Palma, in the 5th century BC. Another example he gave us was his famous empanada de pescado de roca (fish empanada) and I cannot wait to try it! Santi’s legacy, amongst other things, is that he taught people in Mallorca and the rest of the Balearics that we can “cook history” and “taste history” and, at the same time, receive the highest possible accolade in the world of gastronomy - a Michelin star. Talking about that, another way that Santi is different to his contemporaries is that he does not display or mention his Michelin star anywhere in the hotel or the restaurant. If you know – you know!