Trainee Hong Kong chefs to cook alongside Joan Roca at ‘world’s best restaurant’

Spanish chef who runs celebrated El Celler de Can Roca has been in Hong Kong to learn about city’s food culture and prepare for an August tour during which he will pick two aspiring chefs to work with his team in Girona, Spain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2016, 10:28am

Chef Joan Roca, of famed Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, is reluctant to leave Hong Kong, where he’s spent the last few days sampling the city’s food, learning about its local produce and investigating its young cooking talent.

Chinese food is so complex ... but we will approach it with humility, knowing we know very little ... but with the desire to pay tribute to it
Joan Roca

“It’s the first time I’m here in Hong Kong, and it’s gone too quickly,” says Roca, who heads the three-Michelin-star establishment in Girona, Catalonia, named the World’s Best Restaurant by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in both 2013 and 2015. He will be back in Hong Kong soon, though, when he returns with his whole team for a week in August, as part of a five-city world tour that also includes San Francisco, London, Phoenix in the US state of Arizona, and Santiago de Chile.

Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca is named the best restaurant in the world

During the team’s upcoming visit, two aspiring young Hong Kong chefs will be given the opportunity to train alongside Roca, who apprenticed with Ferran Adrià and is known for his inventive take on traditional Spanish cuisine. The selected students will work at El Celler de Can Roca for four months next year, all expenses covered by the restaurant and partnering Spanish bank BBVA.

Roca has spent the past two days visiting Hong Kong food markets and street food stalls. He and his team want to recreate the experience of El Celler de Can Roca in each of the cities they visit, he says, using local ingredients and taking inspiration in local cuisine. ““We are here to learn. Chinese food is so complex – dim sum alone is a world of its own – but we will approach it with humility, knowing we know very little about it, but with the desire to pay tribute to it.”

The team has also been meeting culinary students from the Chinese Culinary Institute, 10 of which will be supporting the Can Roca team when they return in August for a week of invitation-only dinners, conferences, wine-tasting sessions and master classes.

“During that week, we’ll be evaluating the students’ skills and talent,” says Roca, “but above all their attitude, their passion and their commitment.”

Roca works in Girona with his brothers Josep (the sommelier at El Celler de Can Roca) and Jordi (an award-winning pastry chef). This is the third year of the BBVA-sponsored tour but the first time it has taken in Southeast Asia. “We chose Hong Kong for its strategic location in this region,” he says. “It’s the perfect regional hub: economical, gastronomic and also social.”