Jordi Roca

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 April, 2010, 12:00am

How did you and your brothers decide on the division of labour at your restaurant? 'There's a 16- and 14-year age difference between me and my brothers. The work [division] came very naturally. My oldest brother, Joan, knew from childhood he wanted to be a chef. [The middle brother] Josep liked to drink from a young age. At my parents' house, we had barrels of wine in the basement and Josep was responsible for filling the bottles. One day, he didn't come back [upstairs] and when they went to look for him, he was [lying] half-drunk on the floor. He said he was drinking a bit, filling the bottle, drinking more, then filling the bottle again. I [decided to become a] pastry chef [when] I was working as a waiter. I was 17 or 18 and I saw that the chefs were able to leave at around midnight while, as a waiter, I was finishing work at 2am. So I said I wanted to be a chef because they finish earlier. When I was about 20, I started to work with pastry chef Damian Allsop - he's worked at the best places, with [Joel] Robuchon, [Alain] Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay. With him I learned about technique, products and things I hadn't learned from my brothers. I learned a new skill [and it was] something that I could take to my brothers - one [who was expert in] cuisine, one with wine and me with pastry.'

Tell us about perfume desserts.

'The idea came about six years ago, when I read a book called Perfume, by Patrick Suskind. One day, I received a crate of bergamot. I was talking with Josep and said, 'Bergamot, that's interesting, it's not a fruit that's often used in the kitchen, but in perfumes.' And Josep said it reminded him of the perfume he was wearing, Eternity, by Calvin Klein. That's how it got linked together and we decided to [collect] all the different flavours that I could smell in the perfume. It's very subjective, finding the flavours - the aromas I smelled were basil, bergamot, mandarin, vanilla, maple syrup, orange blossom - and with this we made the dessert.'

And how did the cigar dessert come about? 'I did a course with an Italian master of ice cream. We talked about the importance of air in ice cream - [when it's churned, it incorporates] about 20 to 30 per cent air. The teacher said the air around the ice cream needs to be very clean so it doesn't catch any scent. I thought the opposite; what if we create a smell around the ice cream so it can capture the scent? One day I did a trial in the pastry kitchen, I was smoking a cigar and blowing the smoke on top of the ice cream I was making. The air molecules in the ice cream are coated with the smoke of the cigar. When you taste it, it's the same feeling as when your mouth [is] full of smoke. That's how we did it the first time but my father is a handyman and he's made a water pump to make the cigar smoke.'

What do you eat for comfort?

'The dish of the day at my parents' restaurant [Can Roca, also in Girona]. On Tuesday, it's macaroni with lentils; the lentils are cooked like a stew, with chorizo. On Wednesday, we have veal stew and merluza - it's like fish and chips, pan-fried with batter.'

What do your parents think of your business? 'When we first started they said, 'What are you trying to do?' They couldn't understand the direction we were taking. They also couldn't understand why we had so many chefs. We have 30 chefs for 40 covers; my parents have five chefs for 150 covers. Now they're very happy and proud of us. They like our food because there's a lot of references to and interpretations of our mother's cooking style - it reminds them of their own restaurant.'