The Roca Brothers - "Three Heads, One Hat"

by Neil Morris

Elena ArzakFree-style, avant-garde and faithful. These are the words used to describe El Celler de Can Roca, the multi award-winning restaurant in Girona that has conquered the summit of world cuisine with a unique mixture of anarchy and sophistication.

El Celler was founded in 1986 by brothers Joan (chef) and Josep Roca (sommelier and maitre d') and they were joined in 1998 by younger brother Jordi (pastry chef) - but this is no ordinary family restaurant.

The brothers started El Celler in 1986 as a small project next to the house of their parents, Josep Roca and Montse Fontané, owners of Can Roca, a bar-restaurant in Taialà-Germans Sàbat, on the outskirts of Girona. With Joan in the kitchen and Josep in the dining room, the restaurant soon outgrew the tiny premises and was relocated to the country house in Carrer Can Sunyer where it is still situated today. The building is a hybrid of modernist and colonial styles and was built in 1911 by the architect Isidre Bosch i Bataller. It was quadrupled in size after renovation work in 2007 and now has 200 square metres each of kitchen, dining and wine space as well as a separate function hall and pristine gardens. El Celler is a destination that is visually stunning and emotionally stimulating on every level.

The restaurant applies science, art and education to gastronomy and academic debate is embraced as a method to stimulate creativity. The three brothers arrive at a common idea from three different viewpoints, like a living example of a culinary venn diagram; in their own words: "three heads, one hat". Any collision of flavour or texture is considered possible but there must be a point where every component harmonizes in euphoric accord.

El Celler de Can Roca is the outcome of the evolution of a family that has been engaged in the restaurant trade for many generations, stretching as far back as 1700. Their parents, Josep Roca and Montserrat Fontané, were married in 1962 and opened the original Can Roca in 1967. Joan was born on February 11, 1964, Josep on March 19, 1966, and baby brother Jordi followed on May 2, 1978. All three Roca brothers studied at the Girona Catering School and are honorary doctors at the University of Girona. They have all been winners of the National Gastronomy awards and the restaurant has gained three Michelin stars.

In 2009, Restaurant Magazine placed El Celler de Can Roca at 5th in the World's 50 best restaurant awards. It rose to fourth place in 2010, second in 2011 and 2012 and eventually to first place in 2013. A deserved accolade for the three rocks of Girona.

Website: El Celler de Can Roca

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