Born to culinary parents, Joan Roca’s
earliest memories of cooking are with his mother in his family’s
kitchen. She wasn’t just cooking for Joan, but for customers
in their typical country restaurant that served traditional Catalan
cuisine. It is no surprise, then, that all three Roca brothers
ended up in the restaurant business.
After going to culinary school in Girona, Joan,
along with his two brothers, opened up thier own restaurant, El
Celler de Can Roca, right next door his parents’ El
Restaurant de Can Roca. In the beginning the restaurant was
housed in a tight, ill-suited space. Joan could barely turn around
in the kitchen, and the décor was modest and simple. Eventually
the kitchen was remodeled to suit the evolving cuisine, which
had outgrown its plain country roots.
The three brothers each have their own area of
expertise, with Joan overseeing the cuisine, Josep selecting the
wines and Jordi working with pastry. The passion of these three
brothers, along with their dedication to impeccable and knowledgeable
service, set El Celler de Can Roca apart from other restaurants
in the area, eventually winning it two Michelin stars.
Joan Roca reveres tradition but is not encumbered
by it in his cooking. His dishes succeed because of his careful
attention to balance, creating plates that contain sweet, savory,
sour and salty notes, all in harmony. He’s also not afraid
to embrace modern technology, using sous vide to create some of
his signature dishes, such as Iberian suckling pig.
Joan Roca and his brothers also see the dining
experience as being intimately tied to the senses, not just in
taste but in sight, sound, touch and smell. Dishes are plated
to perfection, such as his beet salad with blueberries, which
echoes a garden landscape and is breathtaking in its color and
simplicity. The team at El Celler de Can Roca also takes
wine pairings seriously. Josep is the sommelier, with an almost
encyclopedic knowledge of wines from around the globe. Many of
the dishes were created as a collaboration between the two brothers,
where Josep broke down the notes in a wine and Joan worked to
create a dish that would complement it. Desserts also take on
a modern twist, with some using the deconstruction of perfumes
as their foundation. Jordi breaks down the floral notes, in such
famous scents as those of Carolina Herrera, and incorporates them
all into different aspects of a single dish, recreating the perfume.
Expansion was inevitable, but Joan and his brothers
have taken their time in order to maintain artistic control. Their
second restaurant, Moo, is located in Hotel Omm in Barcelona
and is decidedly different from its Girona counterpart. It is
connected to the main lobby and has a Japanese vibe, with dark
wood accents and sleek seating. A new menu was created to complement
the new space, and Joan makes the trip from nearby Girona often
to oversee the kitchen and hand-picked staff.