Chef Chat, Part 1: Charles Clark of Ibiza

We visited with Chef Charles Clark of Ibiza to learn about his humble beginnings with food and the path that led to his Midtown Mediterranean menu.

EOW: You got started in the culinary field at a very early age. How did you realize that food was the career path for you?

Clark: Growing up in Louisiana, I went fishing a lot along the Sabine River. Most of the time, you wouldn't take your catch home but rather set up a burner out by the river and you would catch and actually cook it right there and eat beside the river. So that was my first experience cooking. Then I got a job in Lake Charles at a Chinese restaurant that had table-side service for rolling mushu pork and cutting Peking duck. That was my first real taste of working in restaurants and interacting with customers.

EOW: How did you go about refining your approach to offering a great dining experience?

Clark: I moved to Dallas, Texas right out of high school, and I got to work in some really nice restaurants. That was where I really got into the art of dining. Fine dining is an attitude in which I try to let my customers enjoy the experience as much as the food. Then I got to help chefs write menus. I have a knack for writing menus and putting concepts onto plates. And so I finally decided to go to culinary school when I was 34. I moved to Houston to attend the Art Institute of Houston. When I graduated, nobody was doing Spanish cuisine. So I wanted to make my dishes Spanish-influenced but with a little more modern flair. I still offer classics such as paella and sangria.

EOW: So besides the lack of competition, what made you focus on Spanish cuisine?

Clark: I love the Spanish cuisine because it's so rustic and real. Their day-to-day dishes were delicacies to me. You could find a whole roasted pig and grilled octopus at a bar, which they'll serve up with a little beer. I also fell in love with the laidback lifestyle.

Check back tomorrow to hear about Chef Clark's wanderings through Europe and his tips for immersing yourself in a local culture.

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