The Roca brothers, co-founders of the celebrated Catalan restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, have hailed London as the world's most energetic and creative city for new restaurants.
Joan, Josep and Jordi, head chef, sommelier and pastry chef respectively, said that London stood out as a destination for new cooking ideas, even in comparison to the places they have travelled to as part of their recent worldwide culinary tours.
Speaking at a Costa Brava tourist board event at London's Mandarin Oriental hotel this week, the trio explained how London inspired the group.
Joan said: "The thing about London is the energy behind all its new concepts. The number of formats that are opening, it's the city in the world with the most new ideas, and ways of understanding restaurants. Even compared to the United States, all the ideas really come together here, it's such a mix."
Pastry chef Jordi, who joined his older brothers after they had already established El Celler in 1983, added that he also took inspiration from British ingredients, such as Earl Grey tea, which he explained he used quite often as part of his recent work on fragrance and smells.
The trio also said that London was a strong hub from which to learn, and that the modern, more casual developments in dining had also proved influential.
Joan said: "In London there are so many different kinds of restaurants. We're always learning. Young people are looking for new ways to create their own restaurants. Developing these casual concepts, alongside the luxury places, allows them to tell authentic stories that are so connected to society. This cooking is creative and modern, and more accessible."
Despite the grand setting of El Celler, the brothers also agreed that the main elements of casual dining were not too far from their restaurant's underlying aim to welcome anyone and everyone, thanks to its roots within the working class town of Girona.
"It's not only a restaurant. It's a local place where people can come and celebrate their lives through the sensitivity of food. El Celler de Can Roca is a restaurant designed for everyone to taste the maximum they can," said Joan.
Speaking to The Caterer at a breakfast reception named Ultimate, held to celebrate the produce of the Girona and Catalonia region, in association with the Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona, and the Catalunya tourist board, the brothers also said their recent work had focused on discovering how fragrance could enhance diners' experience.
An example of this was a new dessert inspired by sheep's wool, which would feature an aroma reminiscent of a sheep's herd in a fresh meadow, with the dish served on a plate that would sound like traditional sheep bells when tapped with a spoon.
The brothers also explained that La Masia, their six-month-old testing and innovation lab set within a historical house close to the El Celler restaurant, also had a room dedicated to creating a new "Roca spirit", using Catalan plants like botanicals to create drinks, alongside the fermentation of ingredients, extract of essential oils, and distillation of products, such as the regional Pals rice, to create liquor.
Other projects included inspiration drawn from recent educational trips around the US, Korea and Mexico, such as healthier eating, fermentation, and flavour combinations.
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