Joan Roca

October 3, 2018

The cautious genius

The Roca brothers – Joan, Josep and Jordi – embody the greatest image of Spanish cuisine in the world. The strength of El Celler de Can Roca lies in the rock-solid union of the talents of all three. Each one of them could have individually been an outstanding professional, but together they are the expression of excellence. Putting the spotlight now on Joan, a sensitive and disciplined man, it must be pointed out that he had a calling at a very young age, showing great keenness and fascination as his mother, Montserrat, taught him to cook. His intuition and exquisite taste are famous, as are his modesty and discretion. An ingenious cook, over time he has developed extraordinary technical skills. His cuisine is an example of innovation and creativity applied with poise, without eccentricities, using exceptional produce and based on in-depth technical knowledge, yet it is food that is always understood by the diner. In between the avant-garde and the post-avant-garde – where he has decided to be ‘on guard’ – his philosophy revolves around three ideas that are core for him both personally and professionally: curiosity, boldness and knowledge. The search for new paths to evolve his cooking has led him to cook at low temperature, but sidestepping the vacuum-sealing stage, a technique he helped to invent back in the day. His recent discourse has resulted in him saying that they have gone from a materialist avant-garde cuisine – based on techniques and ingredients – to a decontextualisation of the technologies used until now in order to be more involved with people. From science to awareness. From evolution to a sensitive revolution. What he’s trying to avoid is jumping onto the post-avant-garde bandwagon, but onto the post-materialism one; going from the tangible to the intangible in the belief that less importance should be given to technique and recipes, and that the message conveyed to diners should be offered via flavours. ‘Now is the time for a humanistic avant-garde, for sustainability and awareness.’ Joan reflects on the essence of their cooking, and asks himself, ‘How can we preserve it in the face of the challenges presented by climate change? For our cuisine to be sustainable in the future, we have to look carefully at what is at its heart today.’ For some time now, El Celler de Can Roca has, in fact, been supporting small-scale farmers and growers who go out of their way to offer them the best produce; the goal is for them to grow together and at a pace that is sustainable for everyone. This is what is currently the essence of their cuisine. They feel they have a responsibility to create awareness via the dishes they create. ‘Of course, they have to be delicious but, beyond the flavours, they are a way of seeing the world, of relating to it, of understanding that what we eat and how we eat always has an impact on the environment. If you are aware, that impact can become an action, and only by acting positively today can cooking have a future.’ Eufrasio Sánchez