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El Celler de Can Roca

The sweet world, the liquid world, the world salty; Jordi, Josep, Joan. The kitchen, the dining room, the cellar; art, science, dialogue. Light, space, people; the object, the look, the moment. In The Celler, everything is a three-party game.

El Celler de Can Roca is a free-style restaurant, committed to the avant-garde, but still faithful to the memory of different generations of the family’s ancestors dedicated to feeding people. It was founded by the brothers Joan and Josep Roca at the end of August 1986, in Girona. Joan, in the kitchen, and Josep, in the dining room. Immediately after that, in 1987, Encarna Tirado, now married to Josep Roca, joined the project in the dining room. And the youngest brother, Jordi, started in the kitchen of El Celler in 1998.

El Celler is the outcome of the evolution of a family that has been engaged in the restaurant trade for many generations. The father, Josep Roca i Pont, was born in Can Reixach, which still operates as a restaurant in Sant Martí de Llémena, in 1933. He and Montserrat Fontané, the cook, were married in 1962 and opened the bar-restaurant Can Roca in 1967. Their first child Joan Roca, the chef, was born in 1964. Josep Roca, sommelier and maitre, came into the world in 1966, and Jordi Roca, the pastry cook, followed in 1978. Father Roca was the local bus driver, roasted chickens on a spit and grilled meat, and spent a good many years behind the counter at Can Roca. His mother was Grannie Angeleta, her grandchildren’s’ muse, who spent “all her life stirring pans and feeding people”. Montserrat Fontané i Serra, the mother, was born in 1936, in Can Batista de Sant Martí de Llémena. She is the revered driving force and cook, the person who has had the greatest influence on cooking at Can Roca. Montserrat Fontané’s family may possibly have been in the restaurant business since at least circa 1700, the 18th Century, in Sant Martí de Llémena.

The Roca brothers’ own story goes back to the nineteen-eighties, when Joan and Josep Roca completed their course at the Girona Catering School, where they learnt a less traditional and more academic type of cooking, far removed from the fare that was being served at Can Roca. And this was how, in August 1986, Joan (at the tender age of 22) and Josep (a mere 20) opened the first El Celler de Can Roca. They were joined by Jordi, the youngest brother, in 1999. Jordi Roca took over the restaurant’s sweet cooking definitively. The three brothers had found their place: the salt mind (Joan), the liquid mind (Josep) and the sweet mind (Jordi).

They started out in a small premises next to Can Roca, their parents’ bar. . In 1991 they set their sights on Can Sunyer, a country house, a hybrid of modernist and colonial styles built in 1911 by the architect Isidre Bosch i Bataller, standing just a few metres away from the family home. After purchasing it they adapted it as a banqueting hall called la Torre de Can Roca. Fifteen years later, in November 2007, – the new Celler was relocated to the Tower. The former 170 square metre premises were quadrupled by a new and more comfortable premises: 200 square metres of kitchen, 200 of winery, 200 of dining room and 60 for the hall, plus a welcoming garden.

El Celler de Can Roca’s commitment to cuisine and to the avant-garde, and its link to academia, has led it to defend the dialogue between the countryside and science, a total dialogue. All three brothers studied at the Girona Catering School and believe in pedagogy as the basis for the professionals of the future. They are all winners of the National Gastronomy Award and are all honorary doctors of the University of Girona.

All the leading restaurant guides and gastronomy critics have acknowledged El Celler’s achievements over its first twenty-five years. The first Michelin star was awarded in 1995; the second in 2002. And the third on November 25, 2009. In 2009, the English Restaurant Magazine placed El Celler de Can Roca 5th in the World’s 50 best restaurants. It reached fourth place in 2010, second in 2011 and 2012 and finally became the best in 2013.

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