If the perfect family business could be defined in restaurant form, it would be El Celler de Can Roca. Run by three brothers with three distinct but equal talents – Joan, the chef; Josep, the sommelier; and Jordi, the pastry chef – it is not only a restaurant serving world-class food and wine alongside exceptional service, but a place so welcoming that it might as well be the Rocas’ living room. Add to that the influence of the siblings’ parents and the fact that their mother, Montserrat Fontané, still cooks the staff meals each day, there’s no doubt that this is a family effort like no other.
Illustrating those family values is Growing up in a Bar, an iconic course served in a cardboard cut-out of the tavern that their parents still run to this day, with paper figurines of the brothers and snacks representing their childhoods. If that course depicts their earlier lives, The World is an edible journey through the travels the brothers have made together as adults, with bites influenced by Singapore, Mexico and beyond.
It is undoubtedly the harmony between the brothers and their individual talents that led El Celler de Can Roca to No.1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2013 and 2015. It is the extraordinary dedication that middle brother Josep has to creating homemade beverages and selecting from his extensive collection of 60,000 wines for the pairing. It is younger brother Jordi’s painstaking approach to chocolate and desserts like Whisky à la pie. And it is eldest Joan’s ability to lead his brothers while creating a world-beating menu of up to 14 savoury courses that holds everything together.
Inspired by their grandmother Angeleta, 22-year-old Joan and 20-year-old Josep opened El Celler de Can Roca in its original location in 1986. Jordi joined in 1999 and the restaurant moved to its current location in 2007. But after more than three decades, the Roca brothers never rest on their laurels, implementing measures to provide a better work-life balance for staff, keeping things fresh with travels to discover new ingredients and working on separate projects without losing sight of their main focus. Now Joan’s son Marc and Josep’s son Martí have chosen cooking for their careers – as sure a sign as any that the family legend will live on.
Watch the video interview with chef Joan Roca: