When the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are announced in New York tonight, the Roca brothers will find out if they’ve retained the title for the three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Spain. Chopstix met the brothers earlier this month when they held their first dining experience in Hong Kong – an American Express Invites event at The Peninsula hotel.
How did the partnership with American Express Invites come about?
Joan Roca, Head Chef: “At El Celler de Can Roca, we have a long standing relationship with American Express with a great many customers coming to our restaurant in Girona. So when the opportunity arose to do something together in Hong Kong we embraced it.
“Felix at The Peninsula, Hong Kong is an exceptional place and the perfect setting for our work to shine. They clearly put a lot of emphasis on interior design, featuring Philippe Starck interiors and the space itself has a significant effect on the dining experience. The atmosphere is of absolute modernity, which combines perfectly with our understanding of food.”
What inspiration have you had from Hong Kong?
Joan Roca: “Hong Kong is a fascinating city because it encapsulates a sense of modernity and innovation with a unique frenetic energy. Like all chefs, when we travel, we travel with our eyes, hearts and minds open.
“What’s more, Hong Kong is a place where diverse Asian cuisines converge. It is a city with a magnificent culinary culture and a diverse mix of styles and ingredients that we find deeply interesting. We love the challenge of interpreting them through our food, whilst also bringing flavours from our own kitchen to this great gastronomic city.”
Josep, we hear you’re a collector of rare Chinese tea -what are the similarities between tea and wine tasting?
Josep Roca, Head Sommelier: “Yes, it is true that I love the world of tea. I have always said that if I did not devote myself to the world of wine, tea would have become the most important part of my life. Tea has an association with health, history and wisdom. To drink tea is also to drink from a culture within a cup; for me there are many similarities to the world of wine.”
What attracted each of you to your respective roles as chef, pastry chef and sommelier?
Jordi Roca, Head Pastry Chef: “There is a creative triangle with the three of us; complementing each other. When we work together we understand each other, enjoy ourselves and know that we can go far.
“Each of us work in a different area of the kitchen and restaurant when it comes to creating the menu. I am ‘the sweet cuisine’, the dish that is integrated at the end of the dining experience. Joan is involved throughout the entire menu, even when it comes to the desserts. All our opinions create harmony across the whole menu, providing a structure. Josep is a great expert in gastronomic memory. Drawing on the world of wine, he uses his knowledge to provide us with many ideas for flavours and associations to create the dishes on the menu.
“What attracted me most to the world of sweet food is that you can play more, you have more freedom to create. I find myself in that special moment where the customer has just finished dinner. They have been serious and now they are relaxed, with everything that comes after the last savoury dish is fun. I feel comfortable in this role of entertainment, to be able to have fun with our clients through dishes”
[UPDATE: El Celler de Can Roca is number two in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016. Joan Roca has been awarded Chefs’ Choice Award 2016.]