Underground Resistance opened my eyes.
We are sitting in the outskirts of Ibiza, somewhere between San Lorenzo and San Juan, in the beautiful land house of Lia and Gee van Donselaar, talking about life, passion and self-fulfillment. Gee is a firehorse, same as i am in the Chinese horoscope, turning 50 this year and his life took a conscious turn not long ago. What this is about and how it came to it is the topic of this interview.
Hello Gee, it is my utmost pleasure to talk to you as you entered a new phase in your life, to start from scratch tell us first where you come from.
I was born in Haarlem in Holland, actually i was born in a restaurant as my parents always worked in gastronomy. My mother was a waitress, my father was a chef, he has been teaching cooking classes in school and designed sauces for Knorr. They owned restaurants as well and i always knew from very little that I wanted to become a chef as my dad. I’ve been to culinary schools in Holland, studied one year in a Swiss hotel school and after that started to work in different restaurants in Holland, all over Europe and the world, travelling through Asia, South and Middle America, being curious about the different ways of cooking because different cultures have different ways of eating, what is common for one culture is not common at all for another, that made me very curious to get to know as much as possible. This is actually where I collected all my tattoos as well, they tell a whole story of what I experienced in all my travels, they were given to me from different tribes out of respect.
The history of your life is tattoed on your body…
And you cannot hide it.
I don’t want to hide it! (laughter)
So the plan from the very beginning was to become a chef.
Yes, absolutely. Apart from cooking I as well owned a building company because at some point it was really good money. I was a plasterer because I found lots of creativity in this profession, we had customers asking us to restore a whole building, so the quest was to make each building beautiful again, spending hours and hours making ornaments so it actually was super creative, giving us huge satisfaction and, as said, the money was very good as well.
So that was another chapter in your life.
Yes indeed, and after doing that for a while I went to Ibiza.
That is exactly my next question – what brought you to Ibiza?
What brought most of us to the island – party (laughter). Party and freedom.
The first time was in 1993, Privilege was still Ku and there was magic everywhere, it was amazing, breathtaking – you know exactly what I’m talking about!
Oh yes, i know very well.
It was different times everywhere but Ibiza was especially different.
Very especially different. (BIG laughter) We say that when you come to Ibiza there is only two ways, or the island traps you or spits you out, do you agree?
Definitely, it attracted me so much in the first place that I started to organize some music events and trips from Holland to Ibiza, all very playful. Then I got divorced at some point, took my car and all my stuff and moved to Ibiza for good.
Another one… incredible, everybody i know coming down to Ibiza separates from his partner… But cooking was always on your mind, no?
I’ve always been cooking, my best friend Derek always told me ‘If you had a pussy I would marry you’ because you’re the best cook…
Everybody knew I was still very passionate about cooking, my two big passions in life are music and cooking.
So at that point music was more important.
Yes absolutely, organizing parties was the start but after a while in Ibiza I got more and more into producing music, meeting people like Danny Kane from Jakkin Rabbit, he was actually the first person to sell a soundcard to me. That was around the year 2000, a few years of very wild partying followed. We had the glorious times of DC10, Pin-Up, La Diosa, the early days of We Love… Sundays at Space, one of the most legendary parties ever, Manumission…
The first years of Cocoon…
Oh yes absolutely. We were a family, we were nomads who went from one party to the next and we all had fun, there was no stress, everybody shared everything with one another.
Competition was not existent.
Exactly, there was no competition, the ‘look at me’ thing, everybody was the same, you had most famous people dancing next to you without even knowing who they were and nobody cared, if you had no money nobody cared, we were all one.
The real Spirit of Ibiza.
You name it – the Real Spirit of Ibiza! This went on for a few years, then I went on holiday to Australia and I stayed for four years studying personal training. That changed my life a lot. When I came back I had lost 25 kilos and was very healthy. I worked in El Deseo, we started Mr. Hotdog together with my wife in the port of Ibiza and I started to get into producing music again. Snakeman was actually the person who opened my eyes to DJing, we started a group to DJ in the Kitchen but my passion was to produce music. Davina was the first person to tell me she would not show me how to produce but do a track together with me, this track ended at number three in the Beatport charts. After that many more producers came my way, Christoph Absolom, Dado, all the Trance producers from the island and everybody taught me something. With Max and Maurizio from Etnica I’ve been studying at the Soundfarm, they taught me a lot as well, from that time I started my label Gee Spot Recordings, travelled the world, opened two more labels – Black Spot Recordings and White Spot Recordings, working with many artists like Luca C, Elio Rizo and Davina. My track ‘Cobra Coral’ got played at Burning Man, I made it from a spiritual ceremony in Brazil that my wife recorded, a super powerful mantra. Altogether we had an amazing time, leading to open up a radio station together with my good friend Aaron Miles, ’06amUnderground’, because for me all radios in Ibiza were super commercial and had little to do with the real Spirit of Ibiza.
You set up the radio station at home, in your house!
Yes, up to the point were we had the broadcast studio under the pool where you yourself have been playing at the opening party…
I remember very well!
We had an amazing time, even now it still exists but we think about stopping it because it costs us too much money and we don’t get anything back, paying hundreds of Euros every month. We still have thousands of listeners every day, so you can say it is very successful but, as I said, you can’t make money with it…
So you did the radio for how long?
Almost two years, it’s still running but I felt I had to change something in my life, I wanted to know who I was, not being happy, feeling lost, my need was to do something that matters.
Well, it’s not that music doesn’t matter but i get what you want to say…
It’s very difficult to explain, I was working fifteen hours a day in the studio and the people pay you 50 Euros for playing, so for me it did not matter any more, the whole scene was corrupted, people bought themselves into Beatport, you needed to go around and kiss the arses of the promoters to be able to play no matter how good you were…
It almost feels like a mental violation, i get what you mean, it happened to all of us not being ready to feed the machine but to play music for its own sake.
It was so unhuman, if you were not friends with them you could not play, or you were on top when you made it twenty years ago or you had no chance to get into it only by playing music. So it was very unsatisfying for me to maintain this life, lots of my friends tried so hard to reach something and up to today they are still not there, it is a waste of time… the only thing you can never get back in life is time. You can take everything from me but if you take my time it is unpayable. Especially when you reach a certain age time becomes more and more precious, you start to connect all the dots, you know what’s wrong and what’s right and if you feel like I felt it is time to change. So two years ago I put on my Facebook wall ‘It’s time to change’ without exactly knowing why…
But you had to speak it out.
Absolutely, at that time I was 48 and I knew by the age of 50 I wanted to be healthy, not hang around in clubs any more…
Wasting your time…
Yes! One month later I got an opportunity to start a vision quest. It is a tradition from South America where you go on a mountain without food nor water to get in contact again with yourself and with nature. The whole process spins over four years, you start with four days, later on 7 days, then nine days and eleven days. So I did the first step, four days – when I was on the mountain I realized so many things – what I was doing – who I was hanging around with – what was the value of things – what was important in life. And that we all forget how privileged we are that we can open up the tab and there is water coming out, there are people in other countries that don’t even know about this! So being four days on top of a mountain without food nor water you suddenly realize what matters, being alone in a little square of 2 x 2 meters. Actually there is a bit more to this whole ceremony but we leave it like this… After that I got in contact with a shaman who helped me and still helps me a lot with homeopathic doses of plants from the rainforest.
So the essence of all this did bring you to what conclusion?
That I wanted to go back to cooking, but in a different way, not going into a restaurant, cooking things bought in a supermarket. So I started to do research, read about the modern techniques of cooking and wanted to know more and more about the new ways of preparing food, you could say I needed an update. So I studied a lot on the internet, including Harvard University – science and cooking…
Oh yes, why not? It was actually big fun talking to young students and exchange ideas with them, they gave me a lot of energy and I gave them my experience and philosophy about life so together we can build up something. The other study I did was with the Girona University with Juan Roca who is the owner of El Celler de Can Roca. There I learned the ‘cocina al vacio’, vacuum cooking under low temperatures.
So no fire?
Well, this is the traditional way of cooking, but there is a lot more to it, cooking is science. There is e.g. liquid nitrogen where you cook with minus degrees. The thing you have to understand is, let’s say you want to make a sphere, with this technique you submerge a liquid with sodium alginate in a bath of calcium, this is cooking as well, with a lot of things happening at the same time. With fire it’s very simple, you get from zero to 200, 300 or 400 degrees, liquid nitrogen works the opposite, it’s minus 190 degrees so you can do things you can never do with fire, freeze alcohol, make ice cream in no time on the table, you can take a fruit like a raspberry, put it inside and you get all the little segments of it what you then can use as a flavour.
Wow, sounds amazing! You try all this at home, in your former studio you set up a lab to work with all kinds of techniques, trying out new ways of preparing food – and all that soundproof!
After I decided to stop with the music I sold all my studio gear and gave away my labels to my distributor and the radio to my partner Aaron Miles, so I could build up a laboratory with all necessary equipment to understand and use all the modern techniques. This winter we elaborated many new things in the lab to show to people what is possible with all this new techniques.
New flavours, new ways of presentation, new experiences.
Yes indeed, cooking for me is working with flavours, giving the people a different experience. I try to tell a story with flavours, colours, the presentation using different techniques restructuring things. For example you present an aperitif in a sphere as well as in a cocktail, from the sphere you only do one bite, becoming an explosion of flavour in your mouth, being different then when you drink the same in the cocktail. It is a different experience, and I think this is what people are looking for, these are the people I want to cook for.
People that share a certain consciousness when it comes to eat food, knowing that a salad is something more than green, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
A salad for me is something that is built out of layers and different products, it can be everything but every time you take a bite of this salad it needs to be different, with the salad still being the main ingredient. This is something that makes the food interesting, especially when you use local products, when you are aware of what you use. It is important that a chef knows where the product comes from so you can connect with it and love what you are doing. If the food comes in and you don’t even know where it comes from it’s like ‘ok, I’m cooking any steak or vegetables’, but if you go to the farmer and you choose it yourself and bring it to the table you know what you are offering to your customers because you cook it with love and passion.
It is like when you went up the mountain and connect with nature you realize that we come from it and we are not supposed to go somewhere and buy food that is combined as we are told and eat it, that is not cooking. We obviously can not all go back to the stone age and hunt and collect, but if you cook for them you can give them this experience by saying ‘listen, this is the herbs from my garden, this meat comes from a local farmer’. Speaking about local, do you think the island could be self-sustainable?
If the local farmers would understand to use biological products. this is one of the problems, I know it’s very hard when a farmer could loose all his harvest he tries to save it for the money and start spraying but contaminate the things. We could live if we would leave all the chemicals out, but then we need to take away the cars, planes, boats, the whole infrastructure.
In a situation where the world would be in crisis and the system colapses there would be no planes, cars or boats, no transportation, so the island would be isolated. In these moments we could survive here. But let’s get back to cooking.
After my studies I started to build my private chef service, I’ve been working in some restaurants again to get back to understand how it is to work a restaurant, what really disappointed me. Some owners of a restaurant don’t understand the philosophy behind food, they are all thinking about their money, buying cheap products not giving the chefs the opportunity to invest in equipment, often the equipment is broken and they want us to do miracles. we are responsible, I think we chefs are the global ambassadors of teaching the people to eat healthy. When you go to a restaurant and you know the chef is looking for the right products that do not poison you you have a trust, but if the owner of the restaurant doesn’t sustain that it’s very hard for us. This is why I don’t want to work in restaurants and became a private chef, the clients I work with trust me and I have a personal relationship with them. On top I have a team of people that I put together last year consisting of four guys: one is Lele Moccaldi from Italy being the expert in fish – he has been working with Massimo Bottura, one of the top chefs from Italy. Then there is Mariano Baragan from Argentina, he has been working in ‘El Bulli’ and ‘Arzak’, number three is Gonzalo Frederico Lima, as well from Argentina, he worked in ‘Cavali’ and ‘Hilton’. And then there is my Somelier and very good friend Diego Belinky, he has been working for three years in ‘El Celler de Can Roca’. The team works perfectly together, everybody brings in something different to the final product.
You share the same vision.
Same vision introducing different abilities, fact that makes us very strong. As well I work with different people from the island, e.g. Boris Buono from the Foodstudio. On top I follow many chefs from around the world who share the same philosophy. One of my biggest inspirations is Dominique Crenn, she is a two Michelin stars chef from France who lives in the United States just recently becoming best female chef worldwide.
I was following last season’s Chefs Table too, one of my faves was Dan Barber in the United States, he tries to really know where all his products come from, even opening his own farm to guarantee the top quality of his products. Therefore they first had to take off some soil from the ground as it was all poisoned, and when they found good soil then they started to grow totally organic, refining the seeds and vegetables with each harvest – incredible.
Yes, this is what local farmers need to understand, as we said before, you can not just take out of the ground, you have to give the right thing back. The animals for example only need to eat certain parts of the ground because this creates the best meat, all those details are very important. Nowadays as a chef it is not only about cooking, you need to work with farmers who love their products as much as you and understand what they are doing, respecting the circle of nature. Everybody can go to a retailer, buy their products and bring it to the table but it tastes totally different.
And what is important as well is the fact that this food does not have to cost a fortune in a restaurant.
It is for sure more expensive than any ‘standard’ food but it is your health that we are talking about, so I think to spend some more to live better and longer is totally worth the money.
It can even save you money that you don’t have to spend on doctors and medicines to cure something you have been ingesting over a long time…
Absolutely! This is what I mean with consciousness, it is something that is building up slowly in people’s minds, the consciousness of being aware, aware of who you are, because you are what you eat. One thing that changed my life in the past was a track from Underground Resistance that I did a remix from, the track is called ‘Transition’ and talks about opening your eyes and heart to look at yourself and think about where you want to go in life. One night I am in a club listening to my remix and for the first time I really listened to the lyrics and realized that I was not happy at all, this made my big change.
Where can people find you and your team?
People can hire me as a private chef or find me this year in private pop-up-events, we can build a pop-up-restaurant in any remote location. Last year we started a new concept called ‘Ibiza Gourmet Club’, it is a club where you can join for free and you can book a table by making a donation to be part of this experience. We will start from July onwards and got some amazing locations to set up our pop-up-restaurant, e.g. in Atlantis or the helicopter platform in Na Xamena, plus many more to announce. You can find all the necessary infos on our website, and if you subscribe you will get a newsletter to find out where to find us. The space is very limited, it ranges from 8 to 20 persons because we will offer quality, let’s say for 8 people we offer ten courses, ten different wines, a team of culinary artists to blow your mind.
Why the name ‘2ChefsIbiza’?
It actually started because I don’t like to do things alone, I like to share, to work together to build up something very strong, this is part of my vision. So 2ChefsIbiza means that I choose another chef with different skills, to create a fusion of both. We could even do it in a restaurant, design the menu together with the owner of the restaurant especially for that night.
Let’s speak about your ‘grill’ if i may say so, tell us about the ‘Ofyr’.
The Ofyr I saw for the first time last year when a dutch group of people called ‘We are Society’ made a pop-up-event here in Ibiza with 2- and 3-star Michelin chefs using this innovation. It is a very ancient way of cooking because you cook with fire on top of a wide, flat rim that doubles as a high-efficiency cooking surface with different temperatures, 200 degrees on the sides and 300 in the middle. It is cooked with different kinds of wood with different kinds of flavours, so at the same time you aromatize the products. Charcoal is not an option as they figured out it is very poisonous, so by using wood it is a healthy, ancient way of cooking.
When you did the presentation here in your garden i had the pleasure to taste it, all products were incredible, the meat, fish and potatoes are prepared in a different way and the taste was unique.
I am the exclusive distributor for the Balearic Islands, you can rent or buy it from me here in Ibiza, either as company or individual person. Apart from that we imported an amazing tent from Holland, building the structure for the pop-up restaurants, it is an igloo-shaped alloy structure that is set up quite easily wherever you want.
So at the age of 48 you changed your life, this year you will turn 50…
Like you my friend!
…tell me about it… Can you imagine yourself in 20 years, what will you be doing?
Always creating things, if I can not create I die inside, without creativity my life would be very hard…
Like a flower with no water.
Exactly, it’s something hard to explain. Definitely I will still be with my beautiful wife and I think I will own a restaurant on Ibiza where I can fulfill my vision and make people happy, with a self-sustainable garden and all it takes.
So looking back Ibiza changed your life in the beginning, leaving cooking for the music, then it changed your life again even if the actual experience was not on the island.
My wife and me thought we might go to South America to make a living but very soon after it just did not feel right and the island was calling us – as you said, the island or traps you or spits you out. Being trapped does not necessarily mean a bad thing, in the case of this island it is something spiritual, almost divine. Today we own a hotel on the Vara de Rey, the Casa Huespedes, my wife runs this amazing guesthouse and I have my private chef company together with my amazing team and I am actually super happy.
More grounded than ever.
You take the words out of my mouth, more grounded than ever. The universe rewards us now for all the hard work we have been doing over all the years and the struggles we had to pass on this beautiful island. Actually I am almost in tears as I say this…
So am i… Thank you so much, that was a beautiful ending for a long and great, honest and unfiltered interview.