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Q&A: Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, from Michelin-starred El Celler De Can Roca

Jordi, Josep and Joan Roca, El Celler de Can Roca-004

Joan and Josep Roca, two of the brothers that make up the creative powerhouse behind the three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, travelled to Asia earlier this month to host their first ever Hong Kong dining experience at Felix restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel.

The event, held in partnership with American Express Invites – a programme that provides Card Members with access to a wide range of sought after music, theatre, film and dining events – featured signature classic dishes given an inspired new Asian twist.

American Express Centurion Members from around the world had the opportunity to enjoy cooking and wine tasting demonstrations from the chefs globally renowned for their culinary innovations and theatrical dining experiences.

We talked to Joan, Josep and Jordi about the experience and their inspiration from the rich cultural heritages of both China and Spain.

Q. What brings you to Hong Kong?
Jordi Roca (Head Pastry Chef): “We find Hong Kong a truly Inspirational place. It’s a place full of contrasts, filled with frenetic energy and interesting cuisine. Someone once told me that the meaning of Hong Kong was ‘Port of Aromas’, something which speaks to us and our cuisine as we play with aromas, spices and the scents. So, taking inspiration from Hong Kong, we will continue to create the cuisine for which El Celler de Can Roca is known but with a more aromatic, scented twist trying to empathise the most unpredictable element; Hong Kong.”

El Celler de Can Roca in Spain
The three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca launched an exclusive dining experience in partnership with American Express Invites® at Felix restaurant at The Peninsula Hong Kong on 3 and 4 June 2016 – their first in the City – offering American Express Centurion Members access to one of the most sought after chef’s tables in the world. Copyright David Loftus.

Q. How did the partnership with American Express Invites come about?
Joan Roca (Head Chef, El Celler de Can Roca): “As long time collaborators of American Express here at El Celler de Can Roca, we have a long standing and very happy relationship with American Express – with a great many customers coming to our restaurant in Girona. So when the opportunity to do something together arose, we embraced it.”

Q. The American Express Invite programme is all about enriched experiences and you are known for creating special experiences for guests to your restaurant in Girona – so how will you create a special experience for guests in Hong Kong?
Joan: “Felix at The Peninsula, Hong Kong is an exceptional place and the perfect one for our work to shine. The space itself has an important effect on the dining experience and the Felix has made a very significant commitment with the interior design, featuring Philippe Starck interiors that provide an historic and emblematic space and an atmosphere of absolute modernity which combines perfectly with our understanding of food.

“What’s more Hong Kong is a place where diverse Asian cuisines converge. It is a city with a magnificent culinary culture with a diverse mix of cuisines that we find deeply interesting as we love the challenge of interpreting them in kitchen and through our food, whilst also bringing flavours from our own kitchen to this great gastronomic city.”

Q. What can we expect from the wine tasting at the Hong Kong event?
Josep Roca (Head Sommelier, El Celler de Can Roca): “Many of the wines are from Spain and offer us an opportunity to show them outside the country but also offers us a unique opportunity to view of what is happening in the world of wine today. The wines relate specifically to the dishes on the menu, uniquely matched to the cuisine and featuring a nod to Asia’s landscape, producers and wines.”

Q. Josep, we hear you’re a collector of rare Chinese tea -what are the similarities between tea and wine tasting?
Josep: “Yes, it is true that I love the world of tea. I have always said that if I would not devote myself to the world of wine, tea would have become the truly important part of my life. Tea also has an association with health, history and wisdom. It has an innate association with the land. An association with the magical processes that interact with nature and with diversity. To drink tea is also to drink from a culture within a cup and finds exciting similarities to the world of wine for me.”

El Celler de Can Roca in Spain
El Celler de Can Roca is one of the world’s best restaurants. Copyright David Loftus.

Q. What attracted each of you to your respective roles as chef, pastry chef and sommelier?
Jordi: “There is a creative triangle with the three of us and this is when we really see that we complement each other. We can understand each other, enjoy ourselves much more when we work together and know that we can go far when we work together.

“Each of us work in a different area of the kitchen, restaurant and when it comes to creating the menu. I am ‘the sweet cuisine’, the cuisine integrated at the end of the dining experience, but also an essential part of the menu at the beginning – with savoury dishes that use pastry techniques in their creation. Joan is involved throughout the entire menu, even when it comes to the desserts. His, combined with Josep and my opinions create harmony across the whole menu, providing a structure. Josep is a great expert in gastronomic memory. Drawing on the world of wine, he uses his knowledge to provide us many ideas for flavours and associations to create the dishes on the menu.

“What attracted me most to the world of sweet food is that you can play more, you have more freedom to create. I find myself in that special moment where the customer has just finished dinner. They have been serious and now they are relaxed, with everything that comes after the last savoury dish is fun. It is something else, it is a gift and I feel comfortable in this role of entertainment, as an entertainer to be able to have fun with our clients through dishes.”

Q. What inspiration do you get from travelling?

Jordi: “Travel is essential to us and our kitchen. We are situated in Girona where Catalan cuisine has allowed us to develop as chefs, however we love to travel beyond Girona so we can be inspired and keep learning as we develop as cooks”.

Joan: “Hong Kong is a fascinating city because it encapsulates a sense of modernity and innovation with a unique frenetic energy. However, it also has roots and deep-seated tradition with a history where everything takes a certain rationality but at the same time lives with the complex and diverse cultures that define South East Asia. For these reasons it is a fascinating city to visit, enjoy discover and to eat in. Like all chefs, when we travel, we travel with our eyes, heart’s and mind’s open so we can see and feel what is happening in different places around the world.”