Interview with Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca – Girona, Spain

June 2006

Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking?
Joan Roca: I did it with my mother, and with our family restaurant.

AB: Did you attend culinary school? Why or why not?
JR: Yes, I did, in Girona. I think it’s important. You learn faster if you have an academic base. Some of the schools are public, and you can go for a small fee, and they have good programs.

AB: Who are your mentors?
JR: It’s hard to say. Ferrán Adrià, a bit. But it’s more like a little bit of all the restaurants I visit.

AB: What is your philosophy of food and dining?
JR: It’s complicated. I think dining is often about the memories of food, the sensory experience and how you will remember it. I develop my own food to heighten the senses for customers.

AB: Are there any secret ingredients that you particularly like?
JR: What’s most important to me is high quality. I look for the best product close by, but if they happen to be farther away, I’ll get them from there as well. And I love olive oil.

AB: What flavor combinations do you favor?
JR: There are two aspects of flavor combinations that are important to me. I like traditional combinations but done with new interpretations. But also the balance is important to me. Salt, sweet, sour, savory – I want pieces of each in my dishes, with a little bitter on the tongue. Aromas are also important, and I work with my brother on this for the wine. We try to convert the aromas of a wine into the tastes of a dish. We distill the scents, to get the aromas of the earth without the alcohol. We even did it with a Carolina Herrera perfume, which we broke down into fruits and flowers and then made into a dessert.

AB: How did your second restaurant, Moo, come about?
JR: I consulted on the whole thing, from design to dishes. I go in once in awhile to make sure everything is running, and I train the teams that go in.

AB: Tell me about your experience using sous vide?
JR: I’ve been doing it for 10 years, and I read a popular book on it back then. Now I have my own book that’s been out for 3 years, which is great.