Erika Tangari, Cooking with Life Force and Energy
Erika Tangari is like no other chef I’ve met – and I’ve known many chefs during my 30 years of running restaurants. When people ask, ‘can you send me a menu?’ Erika says no she cannot. “How can I know in three months what I will put in your dish?”
Erika Tangari is a chef on the island of Ibiza in Spain. I met her through my cousin Lores and her husband Aurelio who were recently married on the island (see future post). They hired Erika for private catering at their wedding villa and I was absolutely blown away by the food she and her team created. Erika graciously made time to sit and chat with me in the villa’s garden.
Erika explains that she didn’t start her working life as a chef but has fond memories of the wonderful aroma of her Nonna’s homemade gnocchi at her grandparents’s place in Catania, on the eastern coast of Sicily. She grew up in Milan, Italy and studied at university to become an architect. With a strong love for the the ocean, Erika completed her masters degree in yacht design and landed a job working in Dubai. Living in the Emirates became a life changing experience for Erika which shaped her future path.
“I was suffering. If you are going in the opposite direction of your energy you start to get sick and have to change your way.” Working in a design studio in Dubai, it didn’t sit well with Erika that she was contributing to the creation of concrete skyscrapers, “putting kilos of concrete into the beautiful desert and scarring the earth”.
At that point Erika stopped and changed direction, travelling towards her natural flow of energy. She moved back to Italy and immersed herself in cooking. This new direction saw her drawing knowledge from many sources, including studying macrobiotic and ayurvedic cooking.
Erika, full of passion and energy for her new career, put herself through cooking school in Milan to learn more about technique. For eight months she worked 100 hour weeks, spending 80 hours cooking in a restaurant and 20 hours studying at cooking school. It was during this time in Milan she met and worked with Marco Brambilla, a young 18 year old chef, who she now works with on events in Ibiza.
For Erika, now 32, her style of cooking is energising and restorative. It brings life force to the food. “You have to make your hand ready to do precisely what you are receiving. The potatoes – you have to peel a minimum of 1,000 kilos of potatoes before you can say, I know the potatoes, because you are using your brain but you are not in the freedom system of the energy. When I touch the food it’s more alive after I touch it because of my energy and what I’m thinking when I cook.”
Chefs Erika and Marco catered for my cousin’s pre-wedding family dinner and post wedding barbecue on the beautiful island of Ibiza. Both these meals were amazing and are etched in my memory forever.
A vegan feast for our family pre-wedding dinner included delicious gazpacho made with apple cider vinegar, a beautiful and full of flavour sushi made with carrot, coconut and avocado, a creamed beetroot dip blended with pre-soaked cashew nuts and a cream of lentil dahl.
Millet gnocchi in a broad bean sauce with pomegranates, toasted hazelnuts and sage is a dish I’ve never experienced before and had my taste buds dancing.
Dessert was my favourite course. This pretty as a picture dessert is made of three layers. The base is toasted quinoa, the middle is dark chocolate and the top layer is made with local berries and agar-agar. A healthy dessert with incredible flavour and texture – a stand out success.
For our post wedding barbecue Erika and Marco cooked an enormous seafood paella made with local Ibizan prawns, calamari and mussels.
Erika tends to this with love and says she only uses brown rice. “Once you know the technique you can do it better and healthier – that’s the point – I don’t use colour or chemicals but I use turmeric and things that make it healthy to flow with the freedom of the energy. I can put the pranic energy in the food and it changes – physical, mental and mechanical – laws of nature, the alchemic part. You become a magician with your food, it’s really mathematical.”
As an ex-restaurateur, what also impresses me is the calm organisation and focus in the kitchen. This is magic at work – you can feel real energy and love for the food – there’s a perfect synergy between the chefs.
Erika says she cannot possibly know three months ahead what she will put on a menu for an event. Nature gives her the call and then she says “I can do this – but only when I see you, I cannot know before. Everyone has a different diet and we change a lot during the season.”
A free spirit, Erika lived, travelled and worked throughout eastern countries for a year – India, Nepal, Thailand and Bali. By the time Erika returned to Milan she was so rich in the roots of Ayurvedic cooking that she realised she couldn’t stay in Milan and accepted an invitation to work in Ibiza.
‘Super Marco’ as Erika calls him, is now 25 years of age. Since cooking with Erika in Milan, Marco has worked in the UK and the Costa Brava. Now living and working in Barcelona, he travels to Ibiza for events and projects. Marco says he loves working with Erika, “We’ve got a great connection so it’s very easy to communicate and create things”.
Erika loves the energy and freedom of the ocean and tells me, “In Ibiza I am waking up in the morning, walking with my feet on the earth and eating from the tree.” Erika freely admits she will never be rich but would prefer simply to cook and make everyone happy. “Life is so generous with me,” Erika smiles.