Sibling Synergy and Authenticity at El Celler de Can Roca—The Tour

by Meha Desai
September 2014

Restaurant


In August 2014, the team at El Celler de Can Roca went on an adventure. The restaurant closed its doors in Girona and hit the road, making stops in Houston, Mexico City, Lima, and Medellin, with a master class with Jordi Roca at the International Culinary Center in New York City thrown in for good measure. The Roca and Roll World Tour is a three-year collaboration with BBVA Compass, where every summer the entire team—chefs and servers—will spend five weeks touring the world, taking what’s local at each destination and adding the El Celler touch. "We always want to keep learning,” says Jordi Roca. “The more new references we can find, the more we’ll grow as chefs and as people. It’s exciting to be able to see and work with ingredients we don’t get back home or which don’t make sense to Girona, but are local to other places; also it’s challenging."

Before they the hit the road (and sea), the Roca three—Joan (savory), Josep (wine), and Jordi (pastry)—found stimulation and inspiration through weekly culinary salons at El Celler. "Every Tuesday we have what we call Creativity Tuesday," says Jordi. "If someone comes up with something new, this is where to discuss it. And we also invite people who don't necessarily come from the culinary world, like industrial designers, graphic designers—people that can help us add a different vision to our dishes." During the tour, the El Celler team is also looking out for young chefs from each country who’ll be offered a four month stage at the restaurant. "It’s important to support the next generation now and help them to realize their vision. Also, we have this tradition at El Celler, where all stagiers create a dish from their home on their first day for family meal. It helps us to know them, but also to eat some good food," says Jordi.

Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

Pastry Chef Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

Pastry Chef Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

Sommelier Josep Roca of El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

Sommelier Josep Roca of El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

El Celler de Can Roca - Girona, Spain

Sole, Olive Oil and Mediterranean Flavors: Fennel, Bergamot, Orange, Peanuts, Green Olives, and Orange Flower Blossom

Sole, Olive Oil and Mediterranean Flavors: Fennel, Bergamot, Orange, Peanuts, Green Olives, and Orange Flower Blossom

Anchovy Bones

Anchovy Bones

The confidence with which the Roca brothers break every rule imaginable comes with the security that only those who know every rule in the book have. Every ingredient that ends up on their plates, has been taken apart, physically and intellectually, and explored in great depth in their “lab,” which shares the restaurant’s space and is now part of the experimental ethos of the tour. Their driving force is curiosity. They delve into the biology and history of every ingredient, examining every smell, flavor, texture, preparation, and combination, until it can be recreated and reimagined in its truest form. Where books fall short, they collaborate with scientists, historians, and biologists. Where tools do not exist to do exactly what they need them to do, they seek carpenters and metal workers. And where most people would give up, they consider the starting point: “It’s important to know,” says Jordi.

At El Celler, they know. The Roca brothers’ exploration of food has been a journey within and now abroad—an investigation of what’s important to them, where they want to go, and who they are at their core. They live and breathe Girona, and now take that lens on their travels. They’re a family enterprise, eternally faithful to their roots, always willing to grow. "[We] only want that diners eat better each time, believing it has been worth it, coming here,” says Joan. “I’m a chef, that’s all. I don’t consider myself an artist or a craftsman.” It’s the siblings’ synergy with each other and their collaborators, plus this straightforward, open mindset that has allowed El Celler to earn its place among the culinary landmarks of our times—coming soon to a city near you. And if you’re in Greenpoint, Brooklyn this fall, Chef Joan Roca will be Cooking Honest at StarChefs.com’s 9th Annual International Chefs Congress.