Culinary Superstars Take Their Top-Rated Spanish Restaurant On The Road

Aug 14, 2016
Originally published on August 14, 2016 11:10 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This summer, one of the world's top-rated restaurants is taking its kitchen on the road. It's a major logistical challenge, as you might imagine. The crew is cooking gourmet pop-up meals in five cities over five weeks. They begin their tour today in Phoenix, where they'll stay for several days, before heading to San Francisco. To give you a preview of what to expect, our reporter Lauren Frayer joined them on their first leg of the tour in London.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAN SIZZLING)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Beef cheeks sizzle in a pan, oysters float in melon puree and students at this London culinary school huddle around a stove in a kind of rapture.

(APPLAUSE)

FRAYER: The visiting Roca brothers, Joan, Josep and Jordi, are like rock stars of international haute cuisine, says Thomas Muza, a Polish chef, waiting in line to take a selfie with them.

THOMAS MUZA: It's just completely different level. It's past just cooking for the people. It's about creating things - unbelievable.

FRAYER: The Roca brothers are famous for fusing technology and food. They serve edible moss and pork disguised as fish. They often cook with blow torches. One signature dish is served under a glass dome filled with smoke. Their family restaurant in northeast Spain, El Celler de Can Roca, has three Michelin stars. A typical meal there will set you back several hundred dollars - if you can get a table. Reservations for all of this year sold out in just eight minutes online. This month, the restaurant is shut while the Rocas go on tour to London, Hong Kong, Phoenix, San Francisco and Santiago de Chile.

IGNACIO TENA RUBIO: Each time we change the city, that's an adventure. It's a new kitchen and new people to work with, new students. We don't even know where the spoons are.

FRAYER: Ignacio Tena Rubio works with BBVA, a Spanish bank sponsoring the tour. There's an entourage of 35 traveling sous chefs. Back home, the Rocas have a research center and a private farm. Here, they're huddled into a small, sweltering hotel kitchen. Tena calls this the biggest logistical challenge ever attempted in the world of haute cuisine.

TENA RUBIO: Usually a high-end restaurant, they change the menu maybe one dish per year. We will have five different 20-dishes menus for five weeks. It's madness, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The salmon roe are for Scotland.

FRAYER: They choose local ingredients in every country. The Roca brothers are U.N. Goodwill ambassadors, supporting sustainable farming around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you, everyone, for attending.

FRAYER: On tour, these private dinners are free, but most of those invited are BBVA clients. The Roca brothers get to spread their recipes far from their home kitchen. Two lucky culinary students from each location will travel back to Spain with the brothers to work at their restaurant.

JOAN ROCA: (Speaking Spanish).

FRAYER: "It's a logistical challenge and a creative one," says Joan Roca, the oldest brother and head chef. "Even if you're one of the best restaurants in the world," he says, "you still need to get out of your house to learn and change." For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.