The eyes of the culinary world will be on Texas this summer when El Cellar de Can Roca, the restaurant in Girona, Spain ranked number two in the world by Restaurant magazine, comes to Houston and Dallas this August as part of a four country, five city world tour. The three brothers behind the restaurant — executive chef Joan Roca, sommelier Josep and pastry chef Jordi — will close their restaurant for five weeks and bring their entire, 30 person staff with them for the tour.
That's right, one of the best restaurants in the world is coming to Houston. Not New York, not San Francisco, not Tokyo. Houston.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Joan Roca, speaking Spanish translated by celebrity chef Ingrid Hoffmann, explained the tour is a way to respond to requests that the brothers open a second restaurant without having to determine a way to do so without their physical presence.
Hopefully the young chefs who travel to Spain will bring what they've learned back to Houston and share it with their colleagues.
"The only option was to just take the entire restaurant on tour and recreate the entire experience . . . It seems to be the only honest way of recreating it is by shutting down for five weeks," Roca says. Although he says colleagues have asked "Are you crazy?" when they hear about the plan, Roca maintains that their goals for the visit are to be inspired by the cities they visit, to inspire others with their food and to teach students.
Over a five day visit to Texas, three in Houston, two in Dallas, the brothers will serve 100 people per day, 50 each for lunch and dinner. Furthermore, two students from each city will be invited to earn a four month-long apprenticeship at the celebrated restaurant. That's the good news.
The bad news is that the vast majority of people reading this won't even have the chance to make a reservation. As the sponsor of the tour, bank BBVA Compass will invite "clients, prospects and community stakeholders" to attend the meals, according to J. Reymundo Ocanas, BBVA's director of corporate responsibility and reputation. No public reservations will be available for the meals, which will take place at the Museum of Fine Art Houston's Rienzi House in River Oaks.
Rather than attempting to import Spanish ingredients and serving them in Texas, Roca tells CultureMap that the chefs will use local ingredients. He admits that he knows "very little" about Houston's culinary world, save for dinner Sunday night at Caracol and Monday night at RDG + Bar Annie. Therefore, he's leaving a couple of staff members behind to prepare for the tour. They'll work with chefs at Galleria hotspot Caracol to research ingredients and explore restaurants that Roca will try to visit when he returns.
Roca says he hopes the tour will allow the brothers to demonstrate their "food, their technique, their way of thinking and their creativity. In each city having to work with locally sourced products is a challenge that at the same time is inspirational."
The apprenticeship could be a life-changing opportunity for the students, two each from the Art Institute of Houston and Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas. A group of 12 students from the two schools got a preview of what they could expect when Roca led a master class that explained the ways in which the concepts of Memory, Academics, Landscape, Wine and Tradition shape the development of some of the restaurant's celebrated dishes.
"We consider it critical to support talent, and want to help the next generation of chefs explore their skills and develop confidence in a collaborative environment," Roca said in a statement. "Every year, more than 400 people apply to study in our training program and we are looking forward to working with students from Texas."
Hopefully the young chefs who travel to Spain will bring what they've learned back to Houston and share it with their colleagues. While the experience probably won't yield a restaurant as celebrated as Can Roca, only good things can come from identifying young talent and encouraging it.
Even if only 500 Texans will get to experience what all the fuss is about.