Scottish ingredients and Barcelona’s beer hit the spot for chef Joan Roca

Peter Ranscombe catches up with three Michelin star chef Joan Rica during a recent visit to Edinburgh to hear about his passion for Scottish produce – and for beer.

IT’S always a thrill when a talented chef gets excited about Scottish ingredients – especially when that cook is Joan Roca, who gained his third Michelin star in 2009 for his El Celler de Can Roca restaurant at Girona in Catalonia.

Sitting in “The Caley” – or the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh – Roca is full of praise for the ingredients he’ll be using the following day at Colstoun House, a cookery school near Haddington, where he’ll prepare lunch for 100 of his fellow chefs along with members of the press.

Roca has selected grouse – based on a dish that he serves back home in his restaurant using Scottish game – for the menu, as well as lobster and razor clams.

“This is not the first time I’ve visited Scotland,” he explains.

“About a year ago, myself and some friends came over to better understand Scottish produce and we went fishing or collecting razor clams near Edinburgh.

“Scotland is also a country with very good meats, especially beef, also cheese is really interesting.

“I also went to an asparagus farm and visited a small herb and vegetable producer.”

Roca adds: “Produce here is of a very high quality and the gastronomy is really good.

“There are many talented chefs who are prepared to make the most of traditional Scottish gastronomy.”

It’s heart-warming to hear a cook of international renowned speak so highly about Scottish produce, but it’s by no means the only topic on Roca’s mind.

He speaks with enthusiasm about his adventures in Latin America, exploring Columbia, Mexico and Peru for inspiration.

His culinary travels have also taken him across Asia, from China, through Thailand and on to Japan.

Roca’s quest for ideas hasn’t been limited to food either.

He and his brothers – pastry chef Jordi and sommelier Josep – brew their own beers and distil their own spirits for use in their restaurant.

Roca is also the brand ambassador for Estrella Damm, the beer brewed in Barcelona and sponsors of the event at Colstoun House.

“Beer is interesting as an element for pairing and to consider the aromatic elements of food and beer and how we can match beer to a specific dish or meal,” he adds.