Editor's note: Our colleagues at CultureMap Houston shot this exclusive video when El Celler de Can Roca, the No. 2 restaurant in the world, prepared dinner for a group of VIP guests at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston's Rienzi House. Eric Sandler reported on the activities surrounding the restaurant owners' Houston visit this past week.
For three days, Houston's culinary world was buzzing from the presence of brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca. El Celler de Can Roca, their restaurant in the small town of Girona, Spain, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world by Restaurant magazine.
Brought here by financial firm BBVA for three invitation-only dinners that serve as both a reward for favorite clients and a marketing tool for the bank, the Rocas could have, theoretically, laid low during their visit. Instead, they were out and about. This past Sunday, they dined at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston, where sommelier Josep posted a picture of the steakhouse's massive wine storage facility.
After a press event on Tuesday, the brothers met with locals chefs for a panel on building a successful restaurant, which attracted high-profile participants like Holley's chef-owner Mark Holley and Johnny Wesley, the innovative pastry chef at Midtown steakhouse Mr. Peeples.
On Wednesday, Josep met with members of the Houston Sommelier Association at Camerata. Cordua Restaurants beverage director James Watkins, who recently became the city's newest holder of an Advanced Sommelier certification, told us that he took an important lesson from Josep's session:
I think as sommeliers we can have an OCD aspect of 'perfect pairings' or this 'higher calling' that drives us to want to pour hipster, obscure wines. Some of our guests want that, and we appreciate it, but I've always championed the guest experience over anything. Seeing the methodology of pairing from Josep brought credence to that thought. The first course he paired at your dinner the other night was Bonny Doon Albarino.
Our job, no matter what level of service, is to please our guests, and sometimes that means humbling ourselves, grabbing a big-name wine and pouring with grace because our guests enjoy it. I only hope the next generation of sommeliers that were in the room yesterday gleaned the same [lessons]."
Even as they're moving on to Dallas for two dinners, one aspect of the visit will live on. Two students each from the Art Institute of Houston and Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas will be awarded four-month-long, all-expenses-paid apprenticeships in the Roca's kitchen, which is sponsored by BBVA. Hopefully those students will share the knowledge they acquire with other cooks once they return home.
In the meantime, enjoy the video above, which was filmed by CultureMap's Joel Luks during the August 6 service of the 18-dish, 13-course meal. Because Luks is also fluent in Spanish, we are able to bring you exclusive commentary from all three Roca brothers about the meal and their time in Houston.
"We want people to have a good time, that's important for us," Jordi Roca says. "We want them to enjoy the experience, that they remember the flavors that we've interpreted, and to remember that as a gift from us to them."