JOAN ROCA 15 Minutes with The No. 1 Chef in the World
People often asked how I feel when I meet and interviewed big personas like celebrities, designers or chefs. To be honest, it is never been easy. I often feel nervous and worried of not getting enough interesting material for the article. This similar feeling was definitely there when I have to interview Joan Roca during Madrid Fusion Manila event recently.
AS AN AWARD-WINNING CHEF that holds the record for having the best restaurant in 2013 and 2015 (and for being ranked second in 2011, 2012 and 2014), Juan Roca I Fontané from Spain is definitely one of the biggest stars in the culinary world.
Juan Roca enjoys playing cook as a child, but he grew up loving the kitchen. After graduating from Escola d’Hosteleria de Girona, he decided to go to France to get experience from some of the best institutions including Georges Blanc in Vonnas and later with Ferran Adria at the famous el Bulli.
He opened his own restaurant Celler de Can Roca in 1986 in Girona in collaboration with the other his brothers Josep who is a brilliant sommelier and Jordi the uber talented patissier.
Since then, the Roca brothers have mesmerized the world with their take on traditional Catalan cuisine. Michelin Guide gave them three stars in 2009 that lasted until now.
Fifteen minutes with Joan Roca is definitely not enough as he is a super awesome gentleman!
FoodieS (F): Your presentation at Madrid Fusion Manila was very interesting. What is your expectation from joining this event for the first time?
Juan Roca (JR): I come and wish to learn with an open heart and open mind. I have never been to Philippine before and therefore I wish to learn many things while in here. The cooking style in this country is very different, even compared to others in Asia as the Philippines has the influence from the Spanish. It is nice to find all these nice connections between cultures.
F: Last year we saw curry leaf as the new ingredient trend. In your opinion, what will be the next trend in terms of future ingredient?
JR: It is not easy. Everybody is looking for things that they can get on the ground and try not to lose it. I like to find for something that is authentic and original. On my last travel to South America, I found insect to be a type of protein that gives not only flavors but also textures. To my opinion, this could be the future product.
F: Can you tell us about your signature dish ‘the caramelize olive’. What is the inspiration behind that?
JR: See, the olives are really Mediterranean and very Spanish. Olive is very staple thing in Spain. We have olives before eat and we also use it in tapas. Olive is really like a welcome to the Mediterranean area. My olive bonsai is like the Chinese ritual with tea that comes with a message to welcome you to the Mediterranean land.
F: We saw you modernizing Catalan traditional cuisine using avant-garde principals like perfume cooking and sous-vide. Do you think this is the best way to contemporize traditional cuisine?
JR: Absolutely! This is the way I do it but of course with many respect to the tradition itself. We have to have an open mind to the culture and to always learn. The techniques are not everything, but it is more the manner on how to enjoy doing different things.
F: On that note, can you share us the current trend in Spanish culinary landscape?
JR: At the moment we have a concern on produce sustainability as well as its ecological effects. I guess to go green and be healthy is more on focus now.
F: What is your key secret behind all the awards and success?
JR: Passion is the key. It is a very hard work. To be happy and making others happy. These are the keys. You will find the magic behind it especially when you are living for your work. Being happy again is important to create the equilibrium. However, I also believe that we need to have luck.
F: Do you argue much with your two brothers in working together?
JR: We don’t fight (chuckles). We talk a lot and it has been 30 years since we started to work together. We understand each other perfectly and share the same passion.
F: The world knows you as a great chef, but who is the real Joan Roca?
JR: I am a father of the family with two marvelous children who likes to ride bicycle together and enjoy the family time.
F: What does 27 years of cooking teach you about being a great chef?
JR: I am not the best chef. The best chef in the world is my mom (smiles).