Chef Joan Roca of the fa­mous Cata­lan res­tau­rant El Celler de Can Roca speaks to Char­maine Mok ahead of his visit to Hong Kong this month

Hong Kong Tatler - - Concierge Feast -

ead­ing the charge at El Celler de Can Roca—twice voted the world’s best by Res­tau­rant mag­a­zine—is the softly spo­ken Joan Roca, the el­dest of three broth­ers. As head chef, Joan has been a pow­er­ful in­flu­ence not only in Span­ish cir­cles but also on the in­ter­na­tional culi­nary scene. This year marks the 30th an­niver­sary of the open­ing of the broth­ers’ ex­tra­or­di­nary res­tau­rant in the work­ing-class sub­urb of Ta­ialà-ger­mans Sà­bat in Girona, north­east of Barcelona—just min­utes away from Can Roca, the bar-res­tau­rant es­tab­lished by their par­ents in 1967. Ea­ger to learn more about the culi­nary world and to sup­port the next gen­er­a­tion of chefs, the broth­ers de­cided in 2013 to start a se­ries of global tours with Span­ish bank BBVA. These trips en­able them to ex­plore other re­gions’ gas­tron­omy and to seek tal­ented young chefs for in­tern­ships at their res­tau­rant. The tours also give the Ro­cas the op­por­tu­nity to share the phi­los­o­phy and cook­ing of El Celler. This year, Joan and Jordi (the youngest brother and the res­tau­rant’s pas­try chef ) are vis­it­ing Hong Kong from Au­gust 8 to 13. They will host an ex­clu­sive mas­ter­class with Hong Kong Tatler and de­liver a se­ries of pri­vate, in­vi­ta­tion-only din­ners in­spired by lo­cal in­gre­di­ents be­fore mov­ing on to Phoenix and San Fran­cisco in the US and San­ti­ago, Chile. Why is Hong Kong the only Asian stop on your tour? We thought about vis­it­ing other lead­ing culi­nary cen­tres—tokyo, Bangkok, Manila—but de­cided on Hong Kong be­cause it has this in­cred­i­ble synthesis of both tra­di­tional Chinese and in­ter­na­tional cuisines. It’s quite lit­er­ally the cen­tre of East Asia.

How might you in­ter­pret our cui­sine for the menu at the El Celler din­ner this month? I’ve been check­ing out the lo­cal mar­kets— the butch­ers, the fish­mon­gers—and the fresh­ness of the pro­duce is in­cred­i­ble. The dim sum is also mag­nif­i­cent, of course. Our chal­lenge dur­ing our time in Hong Kong will be pay­ing trib­ute to these lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. Our aim is to use mostly what we can find in each city and not rely on im­ported pro­duce.

Where should we look for the next culi­nary move­ment? In the past, we’ve had the French in­flu­enc­ing cui­sine, then it was the gas­tro­nomic revo­lu­tion led by the Span­ish in the ’90s. You’ve also seen the cul­ture of the Nordic kitchen in re­cent years. As for the next big thing? It could be any­where—it could be here, in Hong Kong, or else­where in China. We’re liv­ing glob­ally now.

How has the sig­nif­i­cance of the chef evolved in the past 30 years? Chefs are re­al­is­ing that we can in­flu­ence things for the bet­ter. We have to be re­spon­si­ble, and now I’m very con­scious that the in­dus­try has to be more con­scious about what peo­ple are eat­ing, and to show more re­spect for the planet. We should be en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to eat more re­spon­si­bly and sus­tain­ably.

What would be your per­fect day? One where I can take my daugh­ter to school, then take a bike ride 30 min­utes into the old city of Girona. And then I’d spend the rest of the day in the res­tau­rant. I’d have din­ner at my par­ents’ bar across the road, then go back to the res­tau­rant.

Who would you like to cook din­ner for you, liv­ing or dead? It would have to be Marie-an­toine Carême, an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant French cook and the fa­ther of le grande cui­sine. I would love him to cook for me and tell me all he knows about French cook­ing in the 19th cen­tury.

SPAN­ISH EYES Joan Roca (above); Jordi, Joan and Josep Roca are the trio be­hind one of the world’s best restau­rants

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