Chef Profile: the Roca brothers

Cellar de Can Roca sits at number two on the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list. Based in the Catalan city of Girona, the eponymous restaurant is run by three brothers: head chef Joan, dessert chef Jordi, and sommelier Josep. Together, they have taken their philosophy, which plays on memory and perception, to a three-Michelin star level. We met with Joan to discuss the Roca brothers culinary ideology, including what it takes to serve the best food in the world.

How did you, three brothers, all develop a passion for food and wine?

We are the third generation of a family dedicated to restaurants. We were born and grew up in a family restaurant environment where we felt comfortable. So we decided to dedicate ourselves to this trade.

What is the philosophy behind El Cellar de Can Roca?

Our kitchen is committed to traditional Catalan cuisine, to the environment, to sustainability, and also to the science of evolving.

You are known for creating ’emotional cuisine’. How important is psychology to creating and eating food?

Through food we play with memory and perception. Drink and smells can influence people’s emotional state.

Apart from food, what are the key factors to running a successful restaurant?

Wine is extremely important to have a complete experience. In our restaurant, the wine is as important as the food.

Why is it so important for a restaurant to have a knowledgeable sommelier?

Having a sommelier who is involved in the creative process can turn the marriage  of food and wine into something sublime.

Which chefs influenced you?

The chef that has influenced me the most is my mother, who still cooks in the family restaurant, Can Roca.

What are your most popular dishes?

One of the dishes that has transpired to be very popular, and is also the one where we take the most risk, is ‘la ostra con destilado de tierra’  (oyster with distilled earth).

How important is Spanish culture to your cooking?

Our cuisine is a comment on our culture, our lands, to Catalan produce and our traditions.

How has food evolved in Spain over the years?

We have a great gastronomic tradition. We are situated in a privileged geographic position that allows us to obtain produce of the finest quality. Over the last few years – and thanks to the nonconformity of our some chefs, notably Ferran Adria – we have created a conceptual and technical revolution which has given the kitchen a creative edge.

Do you have any favourite English chefs or restaurants?

I rate and admire the work of Heston Blumenthal.

Is it hard work to maintain the Michelin standard?

When we work, our number one priority is not to disappoint our customers. We do this enthusiastically. We are grateful for the recognition that the guides gives us – however, we do not want to make that an obsession. We just want to enjoy it what we do.

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