First will be champagne and a strange dish. It's a corrugated paper lamp in the shape of a sphere, surrounded by a black ribbon, and anchored to a piece of wood that looks like a sculpture. The waiters, dressed in elegant black, seem to be following a great choreography, in which every move is both delicate and perfect. They open the ribbon in front of your eyes so that you can face the aperitif: several small snacks from different parts of the world. A small Peruvian causa limeña, for example, followed by a Thailand delicacy and another one from Korea. While you are still trying to understand what is eatable and what not, another exceptional wine is poured, and another awesome dish appears: this time, following the style of some children books, a stage of paper carries photos of the three chefs and owners of El Celler de Can Roca (in Gerona, Spain), the famous Roca brothers. In the center of this beautiful art work they honor the flavors of the bar of their parents: a martini that explodes in the mouth, a small piece of a classic Riñones al jerez...
Eating in the best restaurant of the world -according to The Restaurant List- is like being in a movie or a play, not only in a restaurant. It's like a continuous dance of odors and flavors that pass and succeed: brioche with merquén and chilean pebre. A true bonsai hanging olives, which are not olives but olive ice cream coated in tasteless chocolate. An ice cream made from a perfume of the Gran Bazaar in Istanbul. Paper that can be eaten, the smell of smoke injected in a soup, textures that are not what they seem...There is innovation, surprise, and fun. But much more important is the story behind each dish. Like a good novel, it makes you want to know what is coming, how it goes, what's next.
Everything is small, beautiful, and full of details, nothing is superfluous. Each creation is explained very briefly, like the wine that accompanies it: the idea is to have space to eat in peace and delight. They are visual, sculptural, coordinated dishes. Stars from all over the world come here to eat in one of the 50 places that they serve each day. From Patty Smith, who sang to them in the kitchen, to the owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, one of his fans, and the King of Spain, of course.
This experience goes on and on until the plate 29. The hours pass, the magnificent light of Gerona changes, and we can realize that this is not a meal but a trip, perhaps a reunion, definitively an experiment. People pay 300 Euros for this experience, and they have to make the reservation a year before. Coming here is a huge atraction for foodies, because Celler also has the precious three Michelin stars, an honor that only 100 restaurants in the world have.
What´s the secret for this enormous succes, besides innovation, avant gardism and uniqueness?
The restaurant is now thirty years old, and maybe that's part of the explanation. But the real "secret sauce" for this success, in my opinion, is just a few blocks away of Celler, in the restaurant of his parents, who is still open. It serves give coffee, beer, pastries, and a full menu for ten Euros. The Celler chefs and their team eat lunch everyday there. Their parents are a permanent reference for the Rocas. "It is a transmission of values and an environment and circumstances. Our parents had done their migration from rural to urban and settled in this neighborhood and its great project was Can Roca, a restaurant without pretension but with the idea of making people happy sitting at their tables. It was a bar that never closed. There was no vacation, we worked every day. Our parents taught us that this work is linked to the others, to sacrifice, generosity, the ability to share. And to maintain that enthusiasm and ambition", Joan told me a couple of weeks ago at Gerona.
The secret of the Rocas is that thay have been able to make it to the top without changing their city, neighborhood or friends. Without changing their identity.