At a breakfast meeting in London yesterday morning Joan, Josep and Joni proved why they were worth noticing, by revealing ‘Ultimate’, El Celler’s latest innovation and research projects, and ‘cooking up a tribute’ to Girona as a way to demonstrate their mission.
‘A country’s cuisine is its landscape in a cooking pot.’
Words that echo throughout the campaign and epitomise the spirit and soul behind the Roca Brothers’ innovations, they proclaim to take the spirit out of the earth, and out of the wild, and to always be taking inspiration from the nature around them.
Indeed, the brother’s insatiable ability to draw inspiration from any landscape is what makes their food some of the most adventurous and delightful in the world. They aim to create a ‘new cuisine without ever losing sight of their roots’; this is an approach that allows them to create something decidedly unique and yet supremely familiar to the environment it comes from.
At the breakfast meeting, they handed out paper cones impregnated with lamb’s wool that should accompany sheep’s milk ice cream served in a concave bowl that, when tapped with a spoon, chimes like cow bells. It was an example of perfume cooking, a technique pioneered by the brothers that started with their famous adaption of Eternity, a fragrance by Calvin Klein. The technique awakens all your senses and brings you as close to the original recourses and ingredients as possible.
But it isn’t just the brothers’ homeland that brings them inspiration – they can take inspiration from any landscape they happen to be in. Youngest brother Jordi, while on a mission to create a menu that can be eaten at the top of a mountain, trekked up Annapurna in Nepal, the 10th highest in the world. He had created meals in small pouches that could be rehydrated with hot water, giving mountaineers at 5,000ft-plus quality food and ingredients. This alone demonstrates the unwavering energy and spirit of the brothers, but is solidified with Jordi spending four hours, having been inspired by the snowy landscape, creating chocolate ice cream from scratch – the highest altitude ice cream ever created.
Most of the brother’s research now is conducted in their six month-old testing and research lab La Masia, set within a historical building close to the El Celler Restaurant. It is within these four walls that they have researched over 800 botanical plants, 30 of which they use in their restaurant every day. These experiments bring them to the fore-front of gastro-botanical innovations, and also allows them to create a new ‘Roca Spirit’ using fermentation of botanicals, extracts of essential oils and distillation of ingredients such as rice to create liquor.
The food on offer was a buffet of gastronomic creativity and skill that gave a nod to traditional Catalonian cooking techniques that bore the essence of the spirit of the brothers’ cooking; the creations were indeed shaped by the very landscape of the Catalonia.
The sugary sweet aroma of hot cinnamon fills the space from the rom cremat – Costa Brava fishermen’s traditional drink made with rum, coffee, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks and sugar. The concoction is put in a punch bowl, and then set alight and stirred continuously making it both a heat source and delicious drink. It is what the fisherman of the region used to use to keep themselves warm, and, once drinkable, they would consume it to warm them on the inside.
Further on, a vast buffet of Catalonian treats were arranged including cured sliced meats, tomato and olive preserves, sheep, cow and goats milk cheeses, walnuts and apricots, anchovies on toasted coca bread brushed with ripe tomato and olive oil, and foie gras on flavoured toasted bloomer.
Like the punch, each dish nods to a certain Catalonian cooking tradition. Their fish salting technique used on the anchovies has been practiced since the early Iberians, and for over 2500 years in such a way to preserve the taste of iodine. The foie gras represents a major economic sector in the Girona province. Their Celler foie gras is made from fresh duck liver deveined by hand and seasoned with salt, pepper and port. They even had barrels spilling with fresh apples, harvested in the same way since Roman times.
The result is one of the tastiest and most enticing gastronomical delights that truly embody the tradition and soul of Girona, and display the brothers’ limitless ability to create food that delights the senses and that truly takes the heart and soul out of nature.
El Celler de Can Roca, Calle Can Sunyer, 48, Girona, Spain, +34 972 22 21 57