The Leaders of Enogastronomy

Joan Roca: "My employees work 8 hours: earnings are lower, but the team is happy"

Alessandra Meldolesi
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Having just turned sixty, Joan Roca has no intention of leaving the kitchen. "I'm a child who wants to keep playing. And to the youth, I say: if you like it, dedicate yourself fully to the work. I think you will be better than us tomorrow." Working conditions? At El Celler, they are among the best in Europe, thanks to a double brigade.

The Interview

Joan Roca, who turned sixty last February 11th, sees this as a time for reflection. His professional career continues to grow: in addition to El Celler de Can Roca, one of the most important restaurants in the world, with its formidable creativity department, there are the Rocambolesc gelateria and chocolate shop, Casa Cacao hotel, Normal and Mas Marroch restaurants, plus all the activities for which he is preparing the Roca Sant Julià space, at the namesake fortress in Ramis, where a hotel, a restaurant, and the Esperit Roca distillery will open in spring, totaling 240 employees.

fratelli roca mikel ponce
@Mikel Ponce

"Honestly, I feel very fortunate," he comments satisfiedly to the microphones of El Periodico de España. "On a personal level, I feel loved; I have a fantastic family, which has allowed me to dedicate all the necessary time to a job like mine. Living literally above the kitchen of El Celler has facilitated this; I could have dinner with the family, put the kids to bed when they were little, and go down for service. Even more fortunate because I have two brilliant brothers, the best in the world in their specialties, with whom we have created an extraordinary world all around."

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At the beginning, however, it was not easy to fill a restaurant located in the suburbs, in a high immigration area. So much so that the parents did not hide their concerns. Then, gradually, things got going, and the passion for the work paid off. "But it was never economic ambition that motivated us," he says. So much so that offers to open other Celler around the world, with staggering figures, were sent back; although other formats might be replicated, perhaps.

Joan Roca Sgombro con sottaceti e uova Mujo

Sixty years is an important milestone. "But I love to travel, there are still many places and kitchens to discover; I have a lot to learn, I am very curious, I feel young and eager to continue having fun at work. The current El Celler de Can Roca is a kind of amusement park for a chef like me; in the end, I feel like a child who wants to keep playing... I believe that my brothers and I, who are very similar in this, have always handled success with a lot of naturalness, normality, responsibility, and generosity, knowing that this boom in cooking is very ephemeral. So, we have also tried to protect ourselves, so it couldn't hurt us, as it can happen."

joan roca chef

"To the young people who like this world, I advise them to work with maximum dedication. It's a wonderful job, you can be happy making people happy, cooking is loving. They must study, work, travel. The important thing is that they are passionate, passion ignites the fire of knowledge." At El Celler, then, they won't live like recluses. "For about 10 years we have had two brigades, one for lunch and one for dinner, working eight hours each. But it's not easy, it's not a model that can be replicated everywhere, you need consistency of work and customers willing to spend. Certainly, it was much more profitable before, with only one brigade, but this way, by giving up part of the profits, we manage to offer the best possible working conditions." The alternative is a flight from the restaurant industry, as in post-Brexit Great Britain, where the workforce is largely foreign.

joan roca Sofia Moro
@Sofìa Moro

"I want to do this job as long as possible, accompanying my son Marc and my grandson Martì, who want to be chefs, in a new stage of El Celler de Can Roca. The new generation has better training than us, they seem to be in love with the work, which they perform with enthusiasm. I think tomorrow they will cook better than us."

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