The Illusionist of desserts
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández /©ICEX
Photographer: Spanish pastry chef Jordi Roca. Miguel Moñita & Lucia M. Diz/©ICEX
There's much more than a chef behind El Celler de Can Roca restaurant (in Girona, Catalonia). This thriving family business started life as a restaurant serving simple meals, and decades later it has become one of Spain's best restaurants, garnering praise from critics and diners alike.
One of El Celler's distinctive features is its intensely family atmosphere, where knowledge is passed on and tradition has evolved into cutting-edge style. It is one of the few restaurants run by three brothers united by their devotion to producing good food: Joan Roca runs the kitchen, Josep is in charge of the wine cellar and youngest sibling Jordi produces the desserts. The perfect line-up for getting perfect results.
Jordi was the last brother to join El Celler de Can Roca. Born in 1978, he is regarded as one of the top dessert experts on the Spanish culinary scene. It's no coincidence that the three brothers decided to set their professional sights on cooking, bearing in mind that from childhood they had spent half their time in their parents' restaurant. In fact, they remember the restaurant as if it were home.
By the late 90s, Jordi was actively helping out in the kitchen under his brother Joan's watchful eye while he was studying at the Girona hotel and catering school. In 1999, he became a fully-fledged member of the restaurant team and worked alongside someone who Jordi regards as a kind of mentor and teacher: the British chef Damian Allsop, a renowned confectionery specialist who passed on to Jordi the practical and theoretical foundations that would serve him as the basis for a sweet and meteoric career: measuring, precision, patience, passion, temperament, confidence and sacrifice.
A year after acquiring Allsop's wise teachings, Jordi took full responsibility for the restaurant desserts station and so began the three-man show that the Roca brothers turned into their greatest contribution to today's state-of-the-art cuisine.
Jordi Roca's professional career can be split into three stages, marked by the practical application of creative ideas in restaurant confectionery:
- The impact of perfumes: In 2002, Jordi started to develop projects for reproducing aromas and hints of high-end perfumes into an edible dish that would produce a sensory explosion at the end of a meal at El Celler de Can Roca. He researched all the components of the Calvin Klein perfume, Eternity, and managed to separate out the natural ingredients used to make it. With the help of perfume experts he created a dish especially for this perfume, as well as for Angel by Thierry Mugler and Terre, by Hermés.
- The search for color: Two years later, the youngest Roca brother threw himself into studying color, trying to reflect the light, intensity, flavors and aromas conveyed by certain colors in a dessert. Distillation was one of the most successful techniques that Jordi developed during this period.
The future is packed with projects, experimentation and, especially, play. Jordi Roca admits that his work is based, among other things, on the idea of playing, on the ability to imagine, create, play and analyze results. Jordi Roca is a magician of desserts, an illusionist who seeks to amaze and conjure up new visions and experiences for customers who come to eat in El Celler de Can Roca.
Rocambolesc ice cream shop
Jordi Roca was also the impulse behind the new ice cream shop, Rocambolesc, which opened last week in Gerona’s city center. This new project not only reflects his mastery of everything sweet, something that diners at Can Roca can attest to, but also a desire to let his imagination run wild in this new establishment.
With its almost fairy tale decor and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland feel, this charming shop sells desserts, candies, specialty books, and of course, ice cream. Despite its fanciful vibe, the products remain centered around traditional flavors made with high quality, seasonal ingredients. Even so, with six rotating ice cream flavors that might include things like baked Gerona apple and local Ripollesa sheep’s milk, customers are bound to enjoy a gastronomic experience that is anything but ordinary. Additionally, possible ice cream toppings range from sugared cocoa beans, to popping-candy, cookies, guava jam, caramelized apple, cotton candy and red fruit wine gums, among others.
In April 2013 El Celler de Can Roca was named Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant Magazine.