I am Tomeu Arbona
PALMA DE MALLORCA, 1962.
Pastry chef, cook, gastronomic archaeologist, activist. Trained by the women chefs in my family who passed on their ancestral wisdom and to whom I am very grateful.
I manage Fornet de la Soca (our small family business) and have done so since 2010. It is a gastronomic space which offers local cuisine, pastries and baked goods which we prepare in a radically traditional fashion.
I am self-taught, curious, restless and obstinate. In my efforts to carry out a ”positive regression” I am always searching for recipes in old family cookbooks and in discontinued books. This work takes me to family kitchens, monasteries and manor houses in search of information which has yet to be recovered. I am a passionate student of anthropology and the way in which cultures that have gone before us used to eat. I am a circumstantial and accidental baker. I lost my job as a psychotherapist ‘thanks’ to the financial crisis and this led me to take advantage of my passion for cooking and reinvent myself on this path, one which has opened up many others of bottomless value and interest.
I am a nomadic chef as I do not always cook in the same place. Instead, I create fleeting experiences at emblematic and historic locations, experiences which move me and which allow me to communicate what I want to express, as well as at private homes and at events for people who would like to learn more about the value of Mallorca’s historical cuisine. I love linking gastronomy and art through gastronomic experiences where I unite cooking with other different cultural disciplines such as literature, music or architecture.
I love singing, especially all the old working music from the Mallorcan countryside which combines lyrics, language and sentiment. In my opinion there is no truer definition of a culture than its language, music and food. On very special occasions you may hear me sing these songs.
I am passionate about popular cuisine… the food people cook at home, for it combines wisdom, patience and affection. I like to maintain an attitude of rigour and personal effort because I take the responsibility that comes with the cultural aspect of food very seriously. I am suspicious of work which is excessively technical – it cannot replace the beauty of work done by hand and the emotional attitude needed to develop the culinary and human aspects of cookery which we really need to recover.
What I enjoy the most is searching for the creativity, kindness and beauty of the eating experience. I strive for a holistic vision of gastronomy which values every part of the process it comes from. By this I mean the farmers, the original local food artisans.
I truly believe that good food should be available to everyone, and I am proud that my bakery is not an elitist establishment. We sell good, sustainable food which can be eaten by the great majority of people while they are walking around the city, on a break from work or enjoying some time away. At my establishment, a customer is not a person bringing money but a person with whom I want to share a human experience, because that is precisely what eating is. At the same time, I make sure that I am building a business model which is fair and where all members of the team feel part of a joint effort for which they are justly compensated.
I like it when the act of eating is transformed into an art and culinary traditions become a spiritual exercise. I think that personal history and food go hand in hand, they explain each other and live alongside each other, weaving a reality made up of moments which are full of meaning. These take the form of celebrations of life, but not just any life – a life which does not settle for less than what is decisively transcendent.
I like authentic popular markets, I like buying direct from the farmers selling their produce, hearing their language and their tone of voice, and I like going to their farms and buying whatever moves me even more. It could be goat’s cheese, tomatoes from Banyalbufar, thrushes, cames rotges, borage, lard made from the Mallorcan porc negre… products which are now exotic due to their lost proximity. I like looking for those plants our predecessors used to value greatly, and which now live on the fields as anonymous treasures, unknown by most due to the emotional distance of our closest surroundings.
I like filling my pantry with delicious and simple products which I value immensely. For me a well-organised and well-stocked pantry is a place of security and comfort. I am regenerated and transported by the smell of the rooms where sobrassada is cured during the cold winter months and I am awoken time and time again by the fresh air in my village which hits me every time I get out of my car and I see and feel the scenery.
One of my passions is reading. I love writing about gastronomy, it is one of my greatest pleasures. Book publishing is another of my resolutions and commitments. To share the results of my meticulous and passionate search is to contribute to the collective self-knowledge of our heritage, in the hopes that the insatiable processed foods industry will not annihilate it forever.
By promoting the idea of reconnecting with our landscape by recovering, searching for and valuing Mallorcan recipes you could say I am embarking on my own small revolution. I practice a steadfast attitude of resistance against the devastating process of globalisation.
In 2015 I was recognised as Pastry-chef of the Year in Mallorca, by the Balearic Association of Gastronomic Journalists. In December 2016 I was awarded the 31 de diciembre Prize by Obra Cultural Balear, for my work promoting Mallorca’s traditional gastronomy and for the book ”Traditional Confectionery of Mallorca”. In 2017 and 2018 I was awarded the Estrella Dir Informática which placed me amongst the 80 best bakers in Spain and our establishment is part of the Spanish Good Bread Tour. I am a member of the CHEFS-IN collective which is a group of haute-cuisine professionals in the Balearic Islands. I published the book ”Repostería tradicional de Mallorca” in 2016 and I am the author and editor of the book ”Cocina tradicional de Mallorca. Intimidad original” (2017). I am currently working on a book on the emotional aspects of food and culinary memories.