Juan Manuel Ocampo, the new chef in charge of Cal Reiet’s Table

As one stage closes, a new one begins. Our chef Rafael recently left Cal Reiet’s Table to start a new gastronomic project. And today is the day to introduce you to the talented chef who takes charge of our vegetarian restaurant.

Juan Manuel Ocampo has been with us at Cal Reiet’s Table since January, working hand in hand with the rest of the kitchen team and also working side by side with Kai Müller, who came to develop the gastronomic offer for the season with Juan and the rest of the team.

Today it will be himself, Juan Manuel, who will tell you more about who he is, how he defines his cooking style and what you can expect when visiting Cal Reiet’s Table. Welcome Juan Manuel!

Juan Manuel Ocampo, the new chef behind Cal Reiet’s Table

I am Juan Manuel Ocampo; today I introduce myself as the Executive Chef of Cal Reiet’s Table. I’m excited to be starting this new stage in my professional career.

I started in the world of gastronomy unknowingly from an early age, always attracted by the smells that my grandmothers Irma and Ema were able to create in their kitchens. And since I was a kid, I was sticking my nose in their pots, asking, smelling, helping, and wishing to have their hands. Over time I understood that the cooking routine makes the cook, little by little. The wrinkles on my grandmothers’ hands were all wisdom.

I grew up with that curiosity until I finally was able to walk into a kitchen in Marbella, during a trip with friends where I took my first steps preparing very simple and homemade dishes.

At the age of 20 I went to work at an Italian restaurant in Puerto Banus, getting more serious about this profession. For me, it was much more than a job, because I enjoyed it so much!

At 22 I returned to my country with the intention of studying gastronomy, already with the fixed idea of dedicating myself to it. But destiny knocked on my door once again and without thinking about it I travelled to Uruguay to work as a kitchen assistant in a new hotel that was opening its doors in the luxury Uruguayan beach destination of Punta del Este by the famous Cipriani Company. There, I was taught attention to the details, haute cuisine, the classics, all about high-quality product and the rigor of a kitchen. After two beautiful years I finally returned to Buenos Aires and started my degree for “Gastronomic Professional”.

In 2006 I started a part of my career that I consider very important today. My decisions were made towards finding excellence in the gastronomic world and I chose the most professional place I knew: the luxurious Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. I started working there at the pre-opening and immersed myself into French cuisine. I finished my time there in 2012 as Sous Chef in charge of the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. I kept learning and enjoying the act of cooking more and more.

In May 2012 I felt that I had to go on my own way, traveling and sharing new experiences in new places. I moved to Mendoza to start working in a beautiful place called Cavas Wine Lodge Relais & Chateaux as Sous Chef on Regional Argentinian cuisine. Only one year after a new challenge knocked on my door: I had the chance to travel to a really exotic destination for me: Dubai. It was a unique experience; I met a part of the world I hadn’t dreamed of knowing. A new culture and gastronomy. It was a fascinating trip that showed me a place in the kitchen I didn’t know. New people with whom I shared their amazing flavours. A very rich experience.

After 3 magnificent years, at the age of 35, my wife Ana and me decided we wanted to be closer to home. And again, led by life itself, we came to beautiful the Mallorca.

The best chefs in the world are here in Spain, so no other destination could offer anything better. I started working on the opening of a beautiful boutique hotel in Campos, full of renewed dreams and full of energy. Tess de Mar was born, and it was a like having a little baby. 4 years passed swiftly, and our first daughter Catalina arrived, who changed our lives forever.

In October 2019 I realized that I needed a change. Once again, instinct, desire, carried me away searching for a new challenge and concept for my knowledge in the kitchen.

Years ago, since my arrival in Spain, I began to see the implication and interference of the chefs as vehicles to leave a message in the society around us. Perhaps moved by the motivation of transcending to being just a “cook” knowing that we can be part of a social movement and a cultural change.

For some years now, the awareness of those of us who respect or try to respect nature, our environment, began to understand the need to make some changes in our lives. And if you think about making a difference, food is definitely one of the most important parts. Someone I love very much told me one day that “you must find your purpose in life.” And those words really hit hard.

Today I feel that plant-based cooking has endless new opportunities to learn for me. A new way of thinking about cooking, food and health. It’s my opportunity to take a more active role in the awareness around food for my loved ones and my clients.

It is indisputable that the world needs change and I want to be a part of that change. I deeply thank Cal Reiet’s family for feeling that I have something here to contribute and give me the chance to do it.

I hope it’s the beginning of a new beautiful adventure. Join me; I’ll be waiting for you at Cal Reiet’s Table!

Juan Manuel Ocampo.