Jordi Roca Tells Us About His Friendly Rivalry With Massimo Bottura - Exclusive

Jordi Roca headshot
Jordi Roca headshot - El Celler de Can Roca
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Jordi Roca is one of the masters of modern desserts. As the pastry chef at his family's restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, he has pioneered the use of molecular gastronomy techniques like distillation to extract flavors and aromas that bring new dimensions to his sweet creations.

A born innovator, it makes sense that the Spanish pastry chef would form a bond with Massimo Bottura, a genius Italian chef who applies a similarly avante-garde approach to his home country's cuisine at his restaurant, Osteria Francescana. Roca is one of the many culinary juggernauts who's participating in a tribute dinner for Massimo Bottura at this year's South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Tasting Table conducted an exclusive interview with Roca in which he discussed his long, competitive friendship with Bottura.

Initially, Roca and Bottura were set up as competitors because their restaurants were consistently duking it out for the top spot in the World's 50 Best. As Roca put it, "For years we were 'rivals' in the 50 Best, one year he was #1 and we were #2 or the other way around. This situation lasted for about 4 years until it was decided to create the category of The Best Of The Best." However, despite the fight for first place, there was never anything but love and respect between the two chefs. "During those years he and [his wife] Lara were always very close to us, they were rivals that we loved, appreciated, and admired and that feeling was always reciprocal, that was a great life lesson," he shared.

Read more: Restaurant Foods That Always Taste Better Than What You Make At Home

Two Great Minds Think Alike

Massimo Bottura headshot
Massimo Bottura headshot - Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Just as iron sharpens iron, two great chefs will make each other more talented in the kitchen. Throughout Roca and Bottura's relationship, they have gotten chances to learn from one another. Roca recalled a trip with Bottura to Korea where the Italian chef "taught me how interesting aged Parmesan and Modena vinegar are, a master class of an essential product for him." But as impressed as Roca was by Bottura's knowledge about ingredients, it's the Italian chef's attitude and kitchen skills that have really stuck with him.

Roca and Bottura have shared kitchens on several occasions. They first met at an Identità Golose event where they both prepared dishes, and Roca recalled, "He was a whirlwind! He didn't stop still and was extremely kind and caring." Like Roca, Bottura is a perfectionist when he's working, but after service is complete, he's a fun guy to hang out with. "Being around him is a party," said Roca — a party with truly outstanding food, no doubt.

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival runs from February 22-25.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.