Joan Roca: "Young Chefs Must Enjoy Cooking"

Joan Roca goes back to when he was a trainee as the jury member for S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 offers up his own advice to young chefs.

Joan Roca has nurtured the career of many wide eyed trainees in his time. Lines of successful stagiares eager to soak up whatever knowledge they can from the famous chef enter his El Celler De Can Roca restaurant on an almost monthly basis. On top of the constant stream of young blood entering his kitchen, the Spanish chef has seen his own family develop, watching his younger brother Jordi rise the ranks from young trainee to the best pastry chef in the world.

Joan, who according to his mother was the perfect student, has taken a humble family restaurant and transformed it into one of the most exciting dining destinations on the planet. One of only a few places to be awarded the title of best restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organisation. The restaurant and their famous wine celler have become a must stop destination for anyone truly serious about food.

The chef is one of seven jury members for San Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 in Milan and will bring his wealth of knowledge, experience and advice to the grand final event in Italy as one of the final deciding voices on exactly who will be selected as The San Pellegrino Young Chef for 2015.

We caught up with chef Roca before the event to speak about his own career as a Young Chef and find out what he thinks it takes to be a great young chef today.

What’s your best piece of advice for young chefs?
They must enjoy cooking, search for their happiness in cooking rather than success. This is not just a philosophical issue, they will spend lots of their time in a kitchen and they must have this ability.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
"Be generous, all this is about hospitality and making people happy" (My mother)

What’s the worst mistake a young chef can make?
Naughtiness, thinking that the know everything

What do you think about the idea to pairing young chefs with young designers?
We have been doing so from the beginning at El Celler, so we think is an interesting complementary discipline that can bring some creativity and help in presentations. Although the main key here is taste, it's interesting considering all the senses in the gastronomic experience, the challenge here is finding balance in such a way that what we see enhances taste rather than distracting from it.

Why in your opinion is S.Pellegrino Young Chef important?
It's an opportunity to show the extraordinary talent we can find nowadays in young cooks. We have the most prepared and motivated generation of cooks we have ever had.

You’ve done the first ever Roca tour last year, do you think you will do something like that again?
Yes, next August!

How is El Somni? When you first presented the idea you said you hoped to would eventually travel so many people could experience it - is this something that will happen?
El Somni remains at El Celler de Can Roca as a working method for creative development on conceptualising dishes. And we keep on researching and investigating the questions that the experiment opened for us on sensory anthropology. At the moment, we do not consider it as an exportable line of business.

If you could be a young chef again, what would you do differently?
Maybe I would tell my mother to have one more brother, an economist.

Tell us one about some of the exciting projects you’re working on in 2015?
We are expanding to new horizons rooted on our idearium that we cannot unveil yet.

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