Ljubljana, 26. 1. 2020
It seems Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca
were destined to become the most powerful sibling trio in the world of high-end
gastronomy. Ever since Joan was 9 and was helping out his mother in a family
restaurant in Girona.
For Rocas, it has always been a
family affair - even though with El Celler they have moved to great new
heights, far away from simple traditional Catalan cooking of their parents, but
still staying true to their roots and never forgetting how everything started.
Joan as the eldest of the three
brothers developed his passion for food and wine early on. He observed
curiously how his mom moved around the kitchen, how she slowly simmered her
broths and skilfully rolled out the dough for canelons. He soaked in all the
aromas and the flavours and etched them in his brain.
From a very young age he had his
mind firmly set on becoming a chef. And he became one with a capital C. After
completing his studies in Hospitality School in Girona he put theory to
practice with some of the greats of that time - Ferran Adria with whom he developed the famous
"deconstruction" methods, Santi Santamaría who showed him how to
uplift classic Catalonian dishes, and in France with George Blue, who taught
him the "French" way of organising a top-level kitchen.
He was only 22 when he returned from
France, full of knowledge and bursting with ambition. His brother Josep was
even younger, 20, but they have decided to bring the family business to new
level, so right next door to Can Roca, their parents’ establishment, they
opened El Celler de Can Roca which ultimately became one of the temples of
modern cooking. A place foodies from all over the world flock, a creative hub,
a 3 Michelin star institution crowned two times world’s best restaurant and
five times runner-up.
Joan became El Celler's head chef, Josep
was put in charge of the hospitality and the wine, and a few years later their
youngest brother Jordi, nicknamed "the magician of pastries" came on board as
the head pastry chef.
rest is, as they say, history. Today Joan Roca is considered one of the
culinary greats, one that, together with his brothers and his already
well-established background, built a restaurant with deep roots in its terroir
and community. A restaurant that excels also because of the undeniable sibling
synergy between the trio.
and nature have always been one of our creative inspiration sources and our
cuisine aims to embrace our natural heritage with the restaurant. We believe we
can cook the world you want, we can cook the world we want," says Roca.
The brothers are also involved in sustainability projects throughout the
world and are part of the "Chefs for change" initiative. As part of this
initiative the eldest Roca wanted to highlight the restaurant’s commitment to
applying sustainable practices to different fields, so he analysed the human
footprint of the dish "Calçotada", inspired by the Catalan tradition of
grilling the local sweet spring onions ("calçots"). Roca’s recipe included
Ripollesa lamb from a local breed recovery project, recovered calçot seeds and
a plate made from recycled glass.
What Roca does is he builds on traditional, local cuisine, then applies
very avant-garde techniques to it. He is credited as the one who really brought
sous-vide to mainstream restaurant level having studied extensively the ins and
outs of the technique, his aim being to preserve the maximum original flavor by
carefully controlling the temperature. This technique first appeared on the menu
in 1995 with a dish that ultimately brought him fame, Warm cod with spinach,
cream of Idiazabal
cheese, pine nuts and a reduction of
El Celler also plays with so called "perfume cooking", perfected by
Jordi, where they create desserts based on fragrances by destructing different
high-end perfumes. Another innovative technique they developed is how to obtain
distillates, capturing the essence of inedible elements such as soil and use
them as flavour enhancers and they have also done extensive research on cooking
But even with all the innovation going on in El Celler kitchen and with
him constantly pushing the envelope, Joan Roca is, still, above all, a chef who
knows that all of that doesn't matter if you don't put your soul - and heritage
- into it. "Above all, I want to cook like my mother, with my heart," he says.
Text by Kaja Sajovic.