Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll, but Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca – the Spanish siblings behind this year’s world’s best restaurant El Celler de Can Roca – are proving it’s more like Roca ‘n’ roll.
About to embark on their second restaurant world tour, August sees the head chef, sommelier and pastry chef move their entire 40-strong team from Girona, Spain, to Argentina the US and Turkey on an elaborate 40-day journey. Ahead of their tour, Chef Joan Roca talks to Departures.
Departures: How did the idea of touring come about?
Joan Roca: We’d received a lot of interesting offers to open restaurants at various latitudes and while it was very tempting to think about being in the world like that, to us, it didn’t mean much to open a restaurant that we couldn’t actually be at. The restaurant is located where the team is located, and that’s when the idea of a travelling Celler came about. Nobody else in the gastronomy world has done anything like it, and from day one we realised we were at the front of a great opportunity.
How do you replicate a diner’s El Celler experience on tour?
That’s the challenge. The location of the team and the restaurant means a human dimension is responsible for its success. The aim is to replicate El Celler’s experience, but filtering it through that country’s culture. We aren’t going to open up another El Celler de Can Roca anywhere else in the world; there’s only ever going to be one. But we do like to be able to answer the question: “What would El Celler de Can Roca be like?” if it opened in Buenos Aires, Houston or Istanbul? And that’s the experience we want our guests to have on this tour.
What was the biggest challenge in the 2014 tour?
Logistics, without a doubt. We travel in a very big group of almost 40 people, including cooks and waitstaff. And in every place we cook with local products because we produce a different menu in each city. Getting ingredients, adapting to a new place every time. It’s an enormous challenge, but one we love.
You each checked out this year’s destinations, Argentina, Turkey and the US, ahead of the tour. What stood out in each country?
The culture in the north west of Argentina – in Salta and Jujuy provinces – was really surprising. Turkey’s cuisine is delicious and it’s a region with centuries of history behind it, which various civilisations have lived through. We’ve already been to the US but this time we’ve discovered more flavours from the south.
What’s the biggest difference between cooking on tour and at home?
At home, we’re used to having a kitchen that suits our needs. But on tour we have to adapt to the kitchen, the culture, to schedules… but it means we’ve developed a vast capacity to adapt.
Name one travel must
Joan: A knife.
Josep: A corkscrew.
Jordi: A thermometer.
What will stay behind in Spain besides the kitchen sink?
Our family. It’s a long tour, 40 days of travelling around several countries. It’s a very enriching experience, as we submerge ourselves in lots of cultures and meet a lot of people. But leaving behind our family in Girona for so long isn’t easy.
What do you hope to learn on the second tour?
We’d like it to turn out as well or if not better than our 2014 one. It helped us to learn about products, cultures and cuisines that have in turn creatively enriched our own restaurant, as well as us as people. Being able to travel and get to know new places and people is priceless.
Do you agree that gastronomy is the new rock ‘n' roll?
Gastronomy is gaining in importance and a
lot of spotlights are appearing in the world. Behind every kitchen, there’s a
tale of self-improvement – and that’s seductive. But we continue to have our
feet on the ground and aspire to keep learning in order to go above and beyond,
while ensuring our clients enjoy the experience. That’s what satisfies us.