With someone of his stature, the introductions strike. While 1.7 million people who dedicate their lives to the hospitality industry hold their breath, we go to the head of the sector in search of answers to an unprecedented crisis. We spoke with Joan Roca about confinement, entrepreneurial creativity, the new priorities of the clientele or the role of haute cuisine in a war economy. We find deep concern, but also many reasons for hope.
–First of all, how are you and your family?
– We are all well, my parents are well. Concerned about what is happening, the health emergency, the news and above all the economic crisis that is coming. The priority is obviously health, we have to help where we can, stay home and think that when all this happens we will have to deal with a new economic crisis that we will see how we deal with.
–This break marks a disastrous situation for the sector as a whole. How do the Roca deal with it?
–Our family has always tried to be prudent when facing business, investing with its own resources and preserving something for times of emergency. It catches us in a moment of expansion, we have just opened Casa Cacao, a boutique hotel and chocolate factory, but fortunately that investment is paid. Our business structure has different businesses – ice cream parlors, hotel, gastronomic restaurant, daily menu, events – and each one of them will adapt in a different way, that will allow us to reorganize the 140 people on payroll according to the new needs. We have had to do an ERTE, there is no other, but we will keep the full salary paying the part that is not covered by the administration to all our employees.
–How do you imagine the day after?
–It is likely that at the beginning we will have to work with fewer clients, not because there are no reservations, but because sanitary measures require that in a dining room of 50 diners we can only seat 25 or 30. We may have to open days when the restaurant It was closed, or forget about the scheduled vacation this summer. The new situation, which is expected to be complex, requires flexibility on the part of employers, workers and the administration, which I understand will play an important role so that industry in general and tourism as a strategic sector come out ahead.
“Without tourists, we depend on how trust is maintained with the local gourmet”
–There is a lot of talk about adopting a war economy. Is there room for a three star in a war economy?
-That is the big question; I do not know. I think so. Obviously it will be difficult because we come from a wonderful setting where Spanish cuisine has proven to be very attractive for gastronomic tourism. But we are going to have to stay a while without that visitor from outside and survival will depend on how we have been able to maintain our relationship with the local gourmet. We already had between 60% and 70% of national clients, and I think that in Spain all three stars have done that job of connecting with the environment.
–50Best announces that it will not publish its ‘ranking’ in 2020, in the Michelin guide they study formulas to carry out this year’s edition. Is an earthquake looming in the ‘star system’ of world gastronomy?
–There will be a huge dance, because this crisis is severe, and that earthquake is going to take many projects ahead. But it will affect more shaky models, who are only there to compete on the big charts. When a restaurant only thinks about climbing positions, it is not usually sustainable. That will be reflected in the new ranking, there will be many that do not survive.
“This crisis is going to take many restaurants ahead of the speculation”
–Open a screen in the sector.
– It is possible, the crisis of 2008 has already made a terrible sieve and the crisis of ’93 as well. But it will be given by the client, who will be very selective and will only go to places that give him confidence and good value for money, which in Spanish haute cuisine has always been exemplary. The restaurants to which people go on pilgrimage will be businesses full of truth and people committed to their trade and not so much the product of speculation by a group that wants to have a restaurant in the limelight to generate a certain business model around them. .
–There was a hectic schedule of events, awards ceremonies, conferences and trips that had to be stopped abruptly. Was the gastronomy wheel going too fast?
-Yeah right. That screen we are talking about will probably also affect all those satellites of various kinds that are around gastronomy. But in this new scenario we will all have had a lot of time to reflect, to see what is important and what is not. We will return to the essentials, even in terms of cuisine. In our house we were already doing it, looking more at the land, the farmer, the fisherman and the rancher. We will return with lighter luggage, for sure, but also with more desire to work and to do it better than ever.
“In the meantime, how are you doing in confinement?”
– Calmly, with patience, with philosophy, trying to organize everyday life well, maintaining routines. The only good thing this can have is that people are going back to cooking at home, eating with the family, dusting recipes and returning to contact with the seasonal product.
“We will never give up on creativity in the kitchen”
Hard times are coming for haute cuisine, but let no one think that this means lowering the creative pulse that has always characterized the Roca family. «El Celler de Can Roca, which is our flagship and what gives meaning to our commitment to this trade, will continue to be what it has always been, a benchmark restaurant where work is done at the highest level and producers are cared for. , relying on an incredible team », clarifies Joan Roca. “Things will change in our structure, business creativity is important in the immediate future, but we will never give up on creativity in the kitchen.”