Photographs by Brandon Amron-Coetzee
Back in 2005 I had the pleasure of meeting Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca at their restaurant El Celler De Can Roca. That’s them in the photograph above – Joan on the left, Josep in the middle and Jordi on the right. Joan is the chef, Josep is sommelier and Jordi is the pastry chef. The image on the left is Jordi’s ‘Journey to Havana’ dessert: cigar-smoke ice-cream encased in a chocolate tube with crushed violets to simulate falling ash.
What stayed with me from that visit to El Celler was the brothers’ profound appreciation for heritage. Their sleek establishment was built right next door to their parent’s canteen, and as we walked through the heavy wooden door engraved with the restaurant’s name, there on a side table was a portrait of their granny Angeleta.
Here were the Roca brothers – leaders in a genre of food so modern that until quite recently it never existed – remaining physically close to their roots, never forgetting the people who raised them, who cooked for them as boys. More so, they were fiercely proud of these things. Then and now, they continue to remind us that the new can not exist without the old, illustrating through their work how to stretch the limits of possibility while always respecting what went before.
Here is what I wrote for the Mail & Guardian when they were voted The World’s Best Restaurant 2013.