calle de Can Sunyer, 48
There was a time when Spanish cuisine started to be a matter of men, a taxi-driver from San Sebastian once told me. It was the moment of professionalism, many lustrums before a few haggard skirts came back to rotate in congresses. That moment, in Girona, Cataluña, was in 1986. It was the year in which the trident of the Roca brothers struck into the world restaurant scene, imposing a Neptune cuisine, purged, intensely Mediterranean, whereas before the sacred tables of repertoire where in command.
The merit goes largely to the eldest brother, Joan, who directs the kitchen. He was the first to get passionate about what was boiling in the casseroles of the family restaurant, the Can Roca, consecrated to Catalan traditions. While his brothers where being naughty in the street, it often happened that you’d find him side by side with his mother, cooking at the stoves, or shopping at the market. This imprinting was then perfected at the local catering school and siding the great, namely Ferran Adrià and Santi Santamaría in Spain, that is two opposite poles; or Georges Blanc in France.
In time, his maison, the Celler, opened next to the family establishment and magnetised his brothers Josep, sommelier, and Jordi, pastry-chef, protagonists of an instinctive, fertile, unmatched synergy that reverberated its splendour on the Spanish siglo de oro. From the scrupulous and virtuosity use of vacuum, a tool that heightens the ingredient to the highest level, also used during the service (the contribution of Joan in the fine tuning of Roner and Rotaval was essential), to the research on distillation, aimed at pulling down the barricades of what’s edible, challenging culinary taboos (i.e. the earth and the oyster); from the original use of smoke as a component of the dish to the in-depth analysis of the olfactory component, isolated from other senses as a Proustian lever of emotions, his hand has dissected our perception with surgical precision, and then assembled it again, under the alienating appearance of an illegal harmony. Since 2007 he operates in the new, spacious location in Torre de Can Roca, 100 metres away from the original restaurant.
Born in 1964, Joan Roca, before training as a professional, was a pupil of his mother, Montserrat Fontané, from whom he distilled the paradigm of a Mediterranean cuisine focused on the product, that he then evolved through the lever of technical progress and multi-sensorial experimentation. One of the legends of vanguard cuisine, since 2009 he can boast three stars and is the second chef in the world according to World's 50 Best
Umbra di Perugia con residenza a Bologna, è giornalista e scrittrice di cucina. Tra i numeri volumi tradotti e curati, spicca "6, autoritratto della Cucina Italiana d’Avanguardia" per Cucina & Vini
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Happy faces yesterday in Valencia: scientist Malena Martinez and cooks Pia Leon and Virgilio Martinez, the 3 pillars of Central, now at the top of the World's 50Best 2023
Joan Roca, 59, chef and patron at Celler de Can Roca in Gerona, Spain. The picture was taken during a four-handed dinner with friend and colleague Paco Perez, Arco restaurant in Gdansk, Poland
Earl Grey tea cream millefeuille, magdalenas ice cream, caramelised butter tiles and old-book flavoured rice paper: the extraordinary dessert designed by Jordi Roca at El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, Catalonia