Interview: El Celler de Can Roca – The world’s best restaurant

By Mariam Digges

Interview: El Celler de Can Roca – The world’s best restaurant
MiNDFOOD chats to Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, the three brothers behind the world's best restaurant.

How did it feel to learn you had topped the list this year?

It’s a pleasure to be recognised by so many people beyond your borders. But the affection and recognition garnered abroad wouldnot have been impossible without support in our home country. We can never thank those people enough. On the other hand, we also know that sometimes success is more difficult to swallow than failure.

How did the El Celler de Can Roca story begin?

Joan and Josep opened the first El Celler de Can Roca in 1986, attached to our parent’s bar. We opened the restaurant with innocence more than ambition. We learned the basics of our native cuisine from our parents, and combined this with formal training at the The Girona Catering School, as well as extensive travel through France. We continue to learn, and are passionate about showing our creative concepts and our instruments, and also about improving.

Describe the food philosophy of “El Celler de Can Roca?

Our kitchen is committed is to the philosophy of life, with the brightness of the Mediterranean, and a dedication to the avant-garde.

What signature dish must all patrons dining at El Celler de Can Roca try?

Oyster with destyllated soil, a conceptual pairing of “sea and mountain”.

Who do you look to for inspiration?

Joan: If it’s a single person, then my mother is often a good source of inspiration.

Josep: Small producers, who are large in their knowledge.

Jordi: Perfumers, Mesi, my mother, and my sister.

Being three brothers who work so closely together, do you ever find this challenging, or is it more of an advantage?

No, it as an advantage. We all have three strong roots in our mother’s kitchen.

It means our family life remains alive and can enrich our work. We also have the advantage of understanding each other quickly, often with just a single glance.

Head chef Joan is considered to be behind the growth in popularity of souse-vide cooking. How did he come to pioneer this now prevalent technique?

The technique of the vacuum existed and was being investigated for some time, but is more applied at an industrial level than in haute cuisine. At El Celler de Can Roca, we are interested in solving a problem of consistency and accuracy in firing points, and in this area, investigated to solve some problems of precision firing points. Our private contribution was in the direct firing during service, using the thermal immersion thermostat, the Rooner, a developed and patented device that is now popular and adopted in kitchens all over the world and marketed by various brands.

You call yourself “a freestyle restaurant committed to the Avant-garde.” Could you please explain this further?

Catalan cuisine pampers the roots and draws on the territory, with products close to the environment. Our cuisine is also free to establish dialogues with science in order to advance. So sometimes, we collaborate with engineers to find new ways of presenting the dishes. We don’t ever pigeonhole our creativity.

What other restaurants both in Spain and around the world do you enjoy dining at?

Near us, be sure to visit Carme Ruscalleda. He is a chef who employs very authentic Maresme cooking. Of course, in Spain there is an extraordinary range of possibilities – from the north, with Mugaritz, Arzak, Berasategui – to the south, with QuiqueDacosta, Calima and Aponiente.

Jordi was recently in Sydney for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival. How did he find this experience, and the local Australian food scene?

The festival was fantastic; very well organised, with speakers from very different backgrounds. I was able to collaborate with Sepia Restaurant for a special dinner. I loved cooking with them in their own kitchen, working with fine Australian produce. I also loved Quay and Tetsuya, and the interesting Asian influence that is present Down Under.

What is coming up next for you all?

Jordi: I’m working on a dish that breathes with life.

Josep: We have a film project called Earth Alive coming out soon, in collaboration with biologist Evarist March. It will feature more than 470 species of plants, flowers, stems and roots, to help us understand and better leverage our local landscape. We are also conducting research into cooking at high pressures, and have a book on cooking aromas that is about to hit the market.


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