Brothers at top-rated restaurant reveal driving force behind it all: their mom
The 81-year-old matriarch who inspired El Celler de Can Roca was a hit at the Madrid Fusión food fest
An 81-year-old woman named Montserrat Fontané was one of the biggest hits at the 16th edition of Madrid Fusión, a leading culinary event held annually in the Spanish capital. The three-day food festival, which ended Wednesday, provided insights into new trends, up-and-coming chefs, and how technology such as apps and social media can be used to improve the customer’s experience.
Montse, as she is known to friends and relatives, has spent over half a century at the helm of Can Roca, in the Catalan city of Girona. This restaurant was the genesis of the world-famous El Celler de Can Roca, which holds three Michelin stars and has put her three sons Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca on the list of the world’s top chefs.
It’s not our customers’ fault if things have come to this
“It’s not our customers’ fault if things have come to this,” said Fontané about the general state of affairs in Spain, to explain why Can Roca still offers three-course meals for €10, as it has for decades.
Fontané and her eldest son Joan were giving a talk called “The Importance of Origins,” about the value of simplicity as a starting point for everything else. Over an hour, mother and son charmed a packed audience with anecdotes about everyday life in the adjoining restaurants.
These included stories of how Fontané cooks for all 70 employees at El Celler (“They’re like my own children,” she said), or how buckwheat has become all the rage in the food world but people only used to serve it in postwar Spain “because there was nothing else to eat.”
The matriarch of the Roca family – one of the very few female names on the long list of Madrid Fusión speakers this year – also prepared a spearmint soup live on stage.
The talk was part of a section focusing on Spanish food, which also included workshops on codfish, salting methods, or what the restaurants of the future will look like. There were tapas competitions, beer-serving contests, and a quest to find the world’s best croquette.
There were tapas competitions, beer-serving contests, and a quest to find the world’s best croquette
Meanwhile another section, Enofusión, focused on the world of wine, with over 200 different listed wines and nearly 20 tastings featuring products from the California-based Bodegas Torres, old-vine wine by Marqués de Riscal and wines from Catalonia. “We also opened a pop-up space with 15-minute tastings,” said Cristina Villar, one of the organizers of Enofusión.
A new section called The Drinks Show underscored how cocktails and the art of mixing drinks “are on the rise everywhere in the world, which made it necessary to have this kind of space,” said César Ramírez, the head of the section. Ramírez held that cocktails should not be confined to after-dinner moments, but could go well with some meals as well. Not everyone was convinced.
Then again, as the no-nonsense Mrs Fontané said during her talk: “The dishes have to be tasty. After that, each one has its special something.”
English version by Susana Urra.