Joan Roca

Joan Roca
A close-up of Joan Roca

Joan Roca

Recognized as one of the best chefs in the world, Joan Roca is one of the leading pioneers who have made Spain an obligatory destination for gastronomy fans. In El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, he and his brothers, Josep and Jordi, have created one of the most sought-after experiences in the food scene - the months of waiting for a table are a proof.

He was a boy when he first wore a cooking coat to help his mother in the kitchen of the family’s traditional restaurant, Can Roca, in Taialà, a neighborhood lying on the outskirts of Girona (the city where he was born in 1964). As a young 22 year-old man, after studying at Escola d'Hosteleria de Girona, he decided to open with his brother Josep - maître and sommelier- the prestigious El Celler de Can Roca, in 1986. Jordi Roca only joined the two brothers years later, to take over the pastry section.

At El Celler de Can Roca the authentic creative triangle formed by the three brothers keeps them in continuous research committed to innovation and creativity, enhancing traditional flavors with cutting edge techniques. Joan is a trailblazer in accurate cooking techniques, like sous-vide, which he mastered by carefully controlling temperatures in years of testing in his kitchen - and led him to publish books on the subject, such as Sous-Vide Cuisine and Cooking with Joan Roca at Low Temperatures.

Seen as an architect of flavor, his cuisine seeks to combine science and sensibility, technology and simplicity to surprise his guests. Joan’s approach to traditional cuisine fused with avant-garde techniques helped guide the Roca brothers’ work at the restaurant, twice ranked as the No 1. in the world, according to the World's 50 Best Restaurants. The international acclaim came thanks to some outstanding dishes, such as the “Frozen olives” picked directly from a bonsai olive tree that explode in the mouth, and freeze-dried oyster shells with oyster tartare.

The “Amontillado Steamed Oyster”, in which incandescent rocks were placed at the bottom of a porcelain bowl over which Amontillado sherry was poured, is one of the examples of a quintessential recipe at El Celler de Can Roca. Joan pays homage to his brothers in this creation: the wine is at the bottom of the dish, linking with Josep’s work with the bottles, and the perfume cooking is a reference to a technique widely used by Jordi in his desserts.  

In 2013, Joan and his brothers developed El Somni, a gastro-opera in 12-courses, for which they engaged 50 artists and cultural figures from different disciplines, including scientist Harold McGee and painter Miquel Barceló, to take sensoriality to its limits serving signature dishes that could make guests “dream” while eating.

Joan worked with Spanish acclaimed chefs such as Ferran Adrià, with whom he developed the famous "deconstruction" methods, and Santi Santamaría, with whom he learnt new versions of standard Catalonian dishes. But eventually he found his own path in the gastronomy scene, becoming one of the most admired chefs in the food world.

In September 2007, he and his brothers transferred the El Celler de Can Roca operations to the Torre de Can Roca, just 200 meters away, to gain more space in the kitchen for innovation and experimentation, since the research has always characterized Rocas’ work. Nowadays, the restaurant is leading a botanical research called Terra Animada that has catalogued more than 3,000 wild species for recovery and reintroduction in gastronomy.

Joan’s deeply rooted educational vocation also led him to be a lecturer for more than 20 years, being Honorary Doctor by University of Girona, and collaborate in several national and international university programs such as Science & Cooking lectures at Harvard. In 2015, the World Economic Forum invited him to join the annual discussions as a Cultural Leader.

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