• The World's 50 Best Restaurants

Chefs’ Choice Award 2016, sponsored by Estrella Damm

Joan Roca, El Celler de Can Roca, Girona

For a man who has pioneered culinary techniques, inspired a generation of chefs and delighted legions of diners over three decades, Joan Roca is unassuming in the extreme. His humble origins growing up in a working class suburb of Girona, in northern Spain – where his acclaimed restaurant is still located – have infused the 52-year-old head chef of El Celler de Can Roca with a modesty that belies his ongoing success. 

Despite never courting publicity, Joan Roca has quietly influenced the upper tier of the food landscape in the early 21st century: first, with his early work in researching and promoting sous-vide cooking; then with his development of ‘techno-emotional’ dishes that evoke memories of his Catalan childhood; finally through infusing the entire Roca operation with warm hospitality that so many others aspire to. 

Born into the world of hospitality – his mother’s café still operates along the road, where all the staff go daily the family meal  Joan has always worked in the family business, creating El Celler de Can Roca with his brother, Josep, now a globally renowned sommelier, back in 1986. Youngest brother Jordi joined the team in the late 90s to form a holy trinity of the culinary world, resulting in a restaurant that balances Catalan traditions with avant-garde techniques. As head chef, Joan runs the kitchen, always seeking new ways to create delicious multi-dimensional eating experiences for his diners, but each of the three brothers has equal say in the restaurant’s key decisions and direction.

The Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm, is voted for by the other chefs from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and recognises an individual who has gained the respect and admiration of his peers. There is little doubt that Joan Roca has earned that praise and recognition in abundance.

Revered head chef continues to inspire and innovate after three decades at the top

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