For the third year in a row, the Roca brothers— Joan, Josep, and Jordi— have embarked on a culinary world tour, closing their highly lauded restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, for the entire month of August. The brothers, whose restaurant in Girona, Spain is ranked as number two in the world on the World’s 50 Best list, are participating in a five city tour across three countries sponsored by bank BBVA Compass (which makes sense, because who else can afford such a thing). As such, the dinners are invite-only; no tickets were available to the general public.
San Francisco is the fourth stop on the 2016 tour, which has already cooked through London, Hong Kong, and Phoenix, with a finale in Santiago, Chile. The Roca crew rolls deep, with an entourage of 40 employees from servers to cooks in tow. The dinners are 18 courses of culinary boundary-pushing dishes, incorporating local ingredients from each locale visited. Here’s a first-hand account of how Spain’s legendary culinary trio adapted San Francisco’s flavors at their first dinner in the Julia Morgan Ballroom:
Appetizers included “The World on our Tour,” with a bite to represent each stop on the tour (California’s was a “gold nugget” with Californian walnut, plum and chipotle), followed by “Memories of a Neighborhood Bar,” with each taste representing tapas served at the Roca family’s restaurant.
A “halibut with Californian flavors” arrived with swooshes of olive, bergamot, fennel, orange and California walnut, while abalone, avocado, and other local tastes found their ways into other dishes. Sommelier Josep Roca provided a line-up of nine wines from around the world, as well as California, including a Zinfandel from Ridge.
Tartine Bakery sourdough was the inspiration for one of the two desserts. The second dessert, created by pastry chef Jordi, was a “prototype,” and used a turntable of colorful purees to allow guests to “hear” the colors. Never mind the technology, which was impossible to understand— the combined cacophony of 100 of these contraptions was enough to blow the minds of everyone in the room.
Aside from the culinary theatrics, one of the tour’s purposes is to foster local talent in each of the five cities. In San Francisco, 11 former students from the SF Cooking School were chosen to work alongside the brothers leading up to, and during, all five dinners. At the end of the week, two of the students will be chosen as recipients of an internship at El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, with all travel, accommodation, and food expenses covered by El Celler and BBVA.
And last but not least, what did the brothers eat in San Francisco? Looks like at least one of the brothers had the chance to sample some local cuisine, from “Best Female Chef in the World” Dominique Crenn.