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The Roca brothers: "We are going to dismantle El Celler de Can Roca"


After renewing their vows and committing to stay together for at least another decade, they confess that they need to get out of the routine and announce changes. In addition, Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca are not alone, the new generation of the family begins to work in the business

There are several before and after in El Celler de Can Roca.

To begin with, March 16 is marked on the calendar.

That day Jordi Roca (Girona, 44 years old), the Roca's little brother and pastry chef, announced on his social networks that he had just recovered his voice after seven years suffering from spasmodic dysphonia.

A reason for maximum happiness in this family.

They are more pineapple and more rock than ever.

"They have been very hard years, not knowing what was wrong with it," explains Josep Roca (Girona, 57 years old), the sommelier and room manager.

“I saw them suffer.

It was uncomfortable.

That's it.

Now I say that with my voice I am going to give love and receive love.

It is a gift to live it like this, with gratitude and sincerity”, says the affected person.

It is Monday, March 20.

The Celler de Can Roca is closed for rest.

It is the moment that the brothers choose to talk with EL PAÍS.

They are calm:

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EL PAÍS Gastro is born, a section that is committed to reinforcing gastronomy content with new voices and themes

The pandemic has also changed their priorities and some habits.

Josep, for example, in line with the philosophical thought that he embraced a decade ago, in search of a better world, cultivating his gaze towards agriculture and the ancient culture of well-being, has modified behaviors related to food —he has reduced sugar, alcohol and animal protein—, in addition to forcing himself to eat sitting down, something he seldom did before: "I ate standing up and in 10 minutes, and now I like to do it at the bar with my father."

He has also ordered sleep: “Before I barely slept four hours, and now I force myself to sleep for seven with the desire to get to eight hours.

How important it is to take care of yourself inside, ”he says.


The history of El Celler de Can Roca in various dishes

Emblematic appetizers offered by the Roca brothers at El Celler de Can Roca. Photo: GIANLUCA BATTISTA |



All these approaches have been transferred to El Celler de Can Roca, which has undergone, warns Joan Roca (Girona, 59 years old), a calm, slow and deliberate transformation.

The locomotive of the business group —which includes businesses such as the Mas Marroch restaurant and events space, the Rocambolesc ice cream parlors, the boutique hotel with a chocolate shop including Casa Cacao, the Normal restaurant, as well as Can Roca, the traditional restaurant of its parents— has incorporated to its gastronomic proposal more vegetables and has reduced animal protein.

“80% of the dishes are vegetable and many of them come from our own garden.

This responds to the process of planting, cultivating, gathering and cooking.

It is our way of understanding the restaurant, a line of thought and our own style, which is produced in a short period of time”, explains the older brother.

This change comes from back, from when they began in 2012 to worship the land.

They started with a small garden in La Masía, the place where they research and experiment, a step away from El Celler.

Later they added another extension of two hectares of cultivation in Mas Marroch, in Vilablareix, next to Girona, where five people work, with Josep Roca in charge, and where they have organic farming certification and hope to get the same guarantee in agriculture. regenerative.

“We have been doing it in a natural way, without fanfare, without big proclamations, in an organic way”, says Joan.

Discretion is the house brand.

They don't like to brag.

Not even a horse, "with which the carving is done", Jordi drops.

Josep reprimands him.

It is he who works the field with the horse and does not want to give a frivolous image with this subject.

He has been taking it seriously for a decade and he is concerned about the caricature or the posturing photo with the work on the land.

It is a serious matter.

“It has to do with the culture of the subsoil, with a reflection of agriculture in a future without water, and in which I also have doubts about whether removing the earth makes sense at this time, in which we must have a more collaborative look. , and more cooperation with subsoil organisms”, adds the middle brother, who recognizes the happiness that working in the garden brings him, surrounded by goats, geese and chickens.

“We are learning, we have only been here for 10 years and it is very little.

The field requires a lot of slowness”.

He comes out quite Joan: "There is a lot of tendency to tell a lot, and we are to do a lot and say little."

Jordi is not very satisfied, who now since he has spoken again is making himself heard more: “But it is good to tell it, there is a lot of work behind it, it must be made visible.

There is an internal debate here, which I lead, and that is that this speech is worth making it known and that people appreciate it.

But we are so restrained, so shy…”.

The three laugh.

and it is that this speech is worth being known and that people appreciate it.

But we are so restrained, so shy…”.

The three laugh.

and it is that this speech is worth being known and that people appreciate it.

But we are so restrained, so shy…”.

The three laugh.

The elders have worked together since 1986, when after a trip to France they decided to set up a restaurant serving creative cuisine in the Taialà neighborhood, where they grew up and where they still continue, in the back of the family bar.

In 1997 the little one joined, after discovering his fondness for pastry, along with Damian Allsop, then head of sweet cuisine at El Celler de Can Roca and now head of production at Casa Cacao.

Jordi, Josep and Joan Roca, in October 1997, the year in which the younger brother joined El Celler de Can Roca.

After 37 years, they have decided to go one step further and renew their vows to stay together for at least another decade.

“It was something that came out of a conversation about whether we planned, any of the three, to stop, retire early or retire.

We have had to think about it individually, in case someone wanted to stop or have another activity”, says Jordi.

The commitment is firm, the three agree.

“We want to continue at least, if we are healthy, ten more years.

And in this decade we will accompany Jordi, who in some way is the one who now provides the energy for his vital moment ”, Joan affirms.

All this occurred before finding out that the eldest children —Marc Roca, 26, Joan's son, and Martí Roca, 24, Josep's son— decided to be cooks and work in the family business.

“This reinforces everything, but our decision was made earlier because we thought about what a restaurant means, in terms of commitment and vital project.

It is likely that El Celler de Can Roca will continue for many more years than 10″, explains Joan, who adds that it is about sending a message of optimism, “to say that it is a house with history and that it wants to continue making history”.

Next to him, Josep qualifies: "Continue making your story, you don't have to come up against it."

Jordi cannot stop emphasizing something: "We are always holy Prudence".

Who is who

They also have no doubts about the role played by each brother.

They know each other well.

Josep assures that he is the one with “the long-term view, the one who goes to the bottom of the thought that precedes us.

It is what makes you understand that all the vanguards dialogue with a past.

A lot of respect is required, little banality to the above and little suflé of your actions, because there is a lot to raise about innovation and creativity.

Centuries ago they already lived it”.

He adds that he tends to relativize, because "restaurants have the commitment to be close to the ethics of food, the landscape, care, in addition to promoting biodiversity."

Jordi jokes about the seriousness and density of the brother: "When he releases the speech of so much environmental, philosophical and creative responsibility, I think to see if I am going to put it well on the plate, I am not going to annoy him".

His role, he assures, “is to downplay it in order to have a playful, playful look and dare to do things.

When you are going to do something new and you have so much


it costs a lot.

They have a lot of consistency, and that's important, but you have to play and I contribute that.

Everything is very important here."

Everyone laughs out loud.

Joan makes everything flow because "we have built this story without realizing it, it is an almost

naïve project,

which begins with a lot of innocence and unconsciousness, and has become something very solid".

And it was in the pandemic that they reflected on the future.

“We had time to stop and think.

We didn't know what the future would be and we reconsidered if the return would be the same”, says Jordi.

Because Josep "was in favor of tearing everything down and doing it again, but Joan replied no, that with what it had cost us... And I said we should stay the same".

The sommelier admits that he is the craziest, "Jordi is the most sensible and Joan, the most rational".

The debate, at that time, went further, explains Joan: “We reflected on what haute cuisine and the restaurant model would be like.

We saw the need to change things, to start over and rethink”.

And there they continue, Jordi advances: “We want to change and start over, but we are seeing how.

In these next 10 years there will be interesting changes”.

Because what they don't want to fall into is monotony.

“People who have never been here come here, they discover it and are fascinated.

But the change is not so much for those who come but for us.

It is a vital change from inside doors.

We are different from when we started.

We have been here for 15 years, we see it comfortable, but everything is the same.

We have reached a point where we have everything at hand, we are comfortable, everything is very measured, the team works well... We know everything, and that is good,

but it also gives a feeling of comfort and gentrification.

Is it worth changing?

Because when you're good it's because you've earned it.

We have that thing, that aftertaste, we are going to dismantle everything”, Jordi elaborates.

Joan elaborates on the idea: “We feel non-conformist, we want to start a new stage.

We are seeing what, how and where, but it is very likely that El Celler will experience a renaissance”.

Jordi, Joan and Josep assure that after the pandemic they follow more rational schedules.Gianluca Battista

New challenges

Little by little, the Roca brothers expanded in Girona: they opened a gastronomic and cultural center in the Castell de Sant Julià de Ramis, an old military fortress built at the end of the 19th century on the Sants Metges mountain.

For this location, next to Girona, they have plans such as opening a hotel or organizing events.

While all this is taking shape, at El Celler de Can Roca they will continue to bet on the most beautiful part of their trade, qualifies Josep, who speaks of emotional sustainability, such as “receiving, cooking, giving, loving, caring and betting on happiness.

It is a hymn to life, to happiness, to a sense of humor, to feeling good, to caring and betting on the idea of ​​generating a smile and well-being.

Gastronomy has to go that way”.

They have another challenge ahead: accommodate the youngest members of the family in the project.

Their integration, Joan explains, "will occur naturally, but we are also lucky that Jordi is a connection between our generation and that of our children, that makes that hook exist."

In this sense, Josep qualifies that it is "more important that Joan and I know how to reduce our weight than the idea that the next generation has tools to continue learning."

They recognize that it takes time to reach consensus: "We are slow," warns Josep.

“Consensus is not easy for important issues, but when we make the decision we go to death.

Afterwards there are no questions”, Joan qualifies.

"We are not just three brothers, we are three families, and that involves everyone, and that is important," adds Jordi.

Because the wives of the three also work in the Roca ecosystem: Anna Payet, Joan's wife, is the manager of the Casa Cacao hotel, Encarna Tirado, married to Josep, is the manager of Mas Marroch, and Alejandra Rivas, Jordi's wife, directs Rocambolesc.

They have always been united, especially in difficult times.

That there have been

“We have found ourselves in two complex moments.

One, without money, when we were here in 1993, with loans at 17%, in the post-Olympic crisis.

We went three years, from 1994 to 1997, without a holiday.

And the difficulty of success.

In crucial moments, in which there is success, but what is not there is money.

They are the two worst things, being successful and not having money, ”says Josep, who insists on the 16 hours of daily work that he put in for 35 years.

“For two years we have been trying to streamline schedules, due to the covid.

If the team rests, we also have to generate a quality of life for ourselves.

Behind it there is a lot of effort, there is perseverance and generosity of time with the people who dedicate their time and money to be here.

Before finishing the conversation to have lunch at Can Roca and prepare the intervention in the gastronomic congress that is held in their city, in which they are the stars, and in which the two older ones give the leading role to the younger one so that he can shine with the voice, Josep advances a new project that he has not communicated to his brothers.

Expectantly, Joan asks how much it will cost.

“50,000 euros”, answers the one with the idea.

“Roca Recicla has been around for ten years and you have to turn it around and think that bottle glasses are outdated and now you have to make powder from bottles to create dishes.

The thing about glasses is already fashionable, we have to make a new evolution of the project ”, he explains.

"Then we'll mess it up more, sure," adds Joan.

“We complicate our lives ourselves”, concludes Jordi.

A consolidated brand, with its virtues and its defects

They know that the brand has been built little by little, based on the recklessness that it entailed.

opening a gastronomic restaurant in a working-class neighborhood in 1986, "not without effort, commitment and sacrifice", explains Jordi, who praises Joan's ingenuity in conceiving different dishes and justifying the visit.

They are satisfied with the achievements obtained.

They are long relationships in every way.

This year they celebrate a decade as BBVA ambassadors, they also have an agreement with The Macallan, as well as with the watch brand Audemars Piguet. 

"We have generated content and made El Celler a recognized international brand. It is a family business model with an economic ecosystem that we have created around it," explains Joan Roca.

They have managed to get business schools such as IESE, Esade and Harvard to study El Celler de Can Roca as a business model.

"With its virtues and its defects, but as a business case that has had some success and above all as a model for the internationalization of the brand, with repercussions beyond the geographical area in which it is located".

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-03-29

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