October 3, 2018
Joan Roca, the first
Dr Rosellón smiled at Señora Roca, the woman who had just given birth, and said, tenderly, ‘My friend, you have a cook.’ It was prophecy with something of a catch to it. Rosellón was familiar with the eatery belonging to his patient, and it was logical that that four-kilo, screaming baby would follow in the family footsteps.
Joan Roca wanted to be a fireman, taxidermist, frame-maker, but at the age of nine, he gathered the family and solemnly said, ‘Dad, I want to be a cook.’ And as the entire culinary universe knows, Joan is one of the best in the world. His CV cannot fit into a short article of just 2,000 characters: to give an extensive list of his awards would require several pages.
He has all the stars and suns that others pursue and that he, in the company of his family, has garnered without moving from his hometown and a life that is exciting and fun. My friend Joan Roca spends his time in his kitchen-laboratory; he daydreams as he invents recipes and discovers unknown flavours; sometimes, he levitates, and his brothers have to lower him from the ceiling as the Carmelite nuns did with Santa Teresa.
He imbues his cuisine with a sense of humour, as well as surprises and restraint; he reinterprets the old cookbooks of his beloved Catalonia and modifies the traditional with innovative touches. I don’t know anyone who has left his restaurant disappointed, and if there is anyone they should speak now or forever hold their peace.
What is he like on a personal level? A charming man, pleasant, uncomplicated, yet serious. Above all, he knows how to listen. A kindly smile plays on his lips and conveys trust and approachability. He is a genius in the kitchen who has no need to be outlandish; ego, so manifest in the world of cooking, has not gone to his head. Joan isn’t a man with much baggage. Vanity plays no part when he gives a talk, receives the highest honours from a university, or when he travels across the pond to amaze the most diverse array of diners. I take my hat off to introduce a personality who needs no introduction.
By José Manuel Vilabella