Three-starred recommendations: Josep Roca and Alessandro Tomberli talk of dining room, staff, wine, dress code...

They are in charge of the hospitality in two of the most prestigious restaurants in Europe, namely El Celler de Can Roca and Enoteca Pinchiorri: they shared their ideas on the future of restaurants

22-10-2021
Josep Roca and Alessandro Tomberli participated

Josep Roca and Alessandro Tomberli participated in the 16th edition of Identità Milano, within Identità di Sala: here with the classic photo with host Federico De Cesare Viola (all photos from Brambilla Serrani)

When talking about work, especially in restaurants, we should mostly talk about "Human Capital": because work is not something abstract, it is made of men and women: how to motivate your team, select it, train it, make both work and personal life sustainable and beautiful, develop your team's potential, make sure they are paid the right amount and motivate them, allow each member to develop their talents, o work in a healthy and collaborative environment for the team's wellbeing, which is necessary for guests' wellbeing too…

These are topics that were covered by all the lessons of the 16th edition of Identità Milano, dedicated to work. As we know, of the experience had in a restaurant, what we take home with us is how we were treated, the beauty of an evening spent in company, of which the food and drinks are only a component. At the restaurant, as in life, it's the people with whom we interact that create value and wellbeing.

This was also discussed in the chat, in fact in the “Three-starred recommendations” – though the stars were in fact six (three + three) – that Federico De Cesare Viola caught from Josep Roca of El Celler de Can Roca and Alessandro Tomberli of Enoteca Pinchiorri.

Josep Roca

Josep Roca

They pay so much attention to their collaborators, at Celler, that staff members are rebranded as "internal clients”, who will have to take care in turn of the external clients and, to do so in the best possible way, not only will they have to be professional and qualified but also calm and happy. To make sure the work environment is of a high quality - «We want to have the time to listen to those who work with us so we can all grow together» - the three Roca brothers have included in the staff now for a few years a psychologist too, who handles relationships and contrasts, turning problems into opportunities - «conflicts are like pigs: there's nothing to be wasted» -. This is not a surprising detail for those who know the meticulous attention to detail with which they work at Celler (three stars since 2010 and best restaurant in the world for the 50 Best in 2013), of which we had a tasting during a memorable talk in the 2018 edition of the Congress.

Team spirit and a closely-knit brigade that works serenely are also very important for Alessandro Tomberli, historic sommelier and dining room manager in the establishment born as Enoteca Nazionale almost 50 years ago which has just turned 40 under the brand Enoteca Pinchiorri. An institution in Florence and in the restaurant world. Tomberli has insisted a lot on the importance of adequate training and of a broad basic knowledge so that the staff can covey the importance of Enoteca Pinchiorri and Florence, the city where the restaurant is located, and whose identity is closely connected with this restaurant, a source of pride for the capital of Tuscany.

Alessandro Tomberli

Alessandro Tomberli

Both restaurants also agree on the crucial role of wine. Not as a pairing with a specific dish, but as its inspiration, revolutionising the most classic rules that have people choose the wine depending on the dish. In the restaurant of the Roca brothers «you must be generous in listening to wine, part of the dishes are inspired by a specific bottle», and the same approach applies to the historic restaurant founded by Annie Féolde and Giorgio Pinchiorri in the Seventies, where wine is the starting point from which the culinary experience is created: «Sommeliers of the future are passionate, have an exceptional palate for sure, but - Tomberli pointed out – must also be capable of having clients sense the wine before they taste it, not with a lesson on wine, but through their capacity of understanding the client and creating a tailor-made experience».

The joy of reopening, of being able once again to share, and host - «We had never spent so much time without working» said Josep; «Stopping for such a long time was crazy» added Tomberli – matched with the experience, for restaurateurs, of welcoming a different public, geographically, for the obvious limitations to travels imposed by the pandemic.

We were used to welcome clients who were 45% from different countries at El Celler de Can Roca. In the past two years, instead, clients have been mostly locals, and younger too: «Seeing the restaurant full even during the hardest regional confinement was beautiful» said Josep, who also noticed a younger public, who tends to be more charmed and seeks contact.

Alessandro noticed this desire to eliminate distancing too: «Of course we see more Italians and more Europeans among the foreigners. There are less people from the east and from the other side of the ocean. Regardless of the nationality – the sommelier from the Enoteca said – there's an imaginary line around the table where the clients are seated. Though there might be more or less friendship and familiarity with the client, it's only the latter who can invites us to step beyond that line; now we step over it 90% of the times: people want contact, they want to be together».

Indeed it is for the younger public that Enoteca Pinchiorri designed a new offer «to attract those who still don't know us». A series of events, Pinchiorri Experience , dedicated to the producers from Burgundy and based on three great wines with which they pair the food from the three-starred kitchen of Riccardo Monco and Alessandro Della Tommasina. Not affordable for everyone, indeed (the price is 200 euros per person) and in any case it's all sold out until the end of October: «90% of the people who have arrived at the Enoteca during one of these events were surprised an enthusiastic and came back to visit us», says Tomberli.

The Roca brothers too didn't sit on their hands: on the ground floor of Hotel Boutique Casa Cacao, 15 rooms opened one month before the pandemic exploded, they opened a fabrica de chocolate: an open-view lab, bar, and a shop where you can buy the bean-to-bar chocolate made by Jordi, Josep's brother, where you can study, elaborate and taste cocoa through guided experiences.

There are also two new establishments: a banquet room converted into a restaurant called Mas Marroch, and Normal opened in July this year which recuperates Catalan tradition though a cuisine that is straightforward and normal, as hinted by the name.

On top of this, they supported the local suppliers and producers hit by the pandemic: El Celler offered clients to send baskets of seasonal, sustainable and fine products, selected among those of the suppliers of the three-starred restaurant from Gerona, showing how you cannot run a restaurant if you don't pay attention to the wellbeing of others.

Last note: both Tamberli and Roca spoke of how dress code has lost its importance: clients shouldn't – and don't want – to be anxious about how they're dressed. It's a matter of relaxing, spending a nice evening, having fun together and be charmed; all these new interpretations of the new concept of luxury that has spurred after the pandemic: eating together, spending time together, tasting something new, sharing and going out, relaxing, having a good time.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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IG2021: il lavoro