In his cooking, Spanish Chef Joan Roca continues to reference the vivid memories he has of his mother's kitchen. The family-owned bar served classic Catalan cooking to a modest clientele. All three Roca brothers – Joan, Josep, and Jordi – eventually opened a restaurant annex to the bar, in 1986, and within a few years began collecting Michelin stars. In 2009 el Celler de Can Roca shot 21 spots to number five on San Pelligrino's Top 50 Restaurants list, and rose another spot this year. From its humble origins serving up plates of fried calamares in the 1960s, the family bar turned restaurant was this past year awarded its third Michelin star.
Joan took his roots, added culinary school in Girona, mixed in extensive travel and a healthy dose of what he could copy from his idols Chefs Frédy Girardet and Joël Robuchon and “only then did (Josep, Jordi, and I) risk ourselves on the slippery slope of this non-conformist path, which we haven’t abandoned since.”
In the kitchen of el Celler de Can Roca, Joan (46) does savory, Josep (44) liquid, and Jordi (32) sweet. Together they view the dining experience as one intimately tied to all the senses. This culinary troika works as a seamless unit, with the end result that the restaurant has been deemed, by many Spaniards, the best restaurant in the country- pretty big words when we consider the competition.
The menu focuses on the principal trait of each dish, whether it be conceptual, chromatic, or evocative of “memory” (such as an uber-traditional pan amb tomate, turned on its head). Under Josep’s command as sommelier, the wine list has developed along five branches: Riesling, Champagne, Burgundy, Sherry, and Priorat (a Catalan denominated wine). Desserts compete in the global arena of the avant-garde, with Jordi's development of an edible perfume as the foundation in at least one example, the ode to Terre D’Hermès.
In 2003 the Roca brothers opened a second restaurant, Moo, in the chic Hotel Omm in Barcelona. Add to this another hotel restaurant Nurum, their kitchen laboratory el Taller, plus a catering business, banquet hall, and a summer offering at the annual Garden Festival in Cap Roig, and you’ll pardon the updated axiom, “three heads are better than one”.