The nose knows.
Held over three days in April at the SMX Convention Center, the third edition of Madrid Fusión Manila Food attracted 1,400 local and international guests from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Taiwan, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. Among this number were six Michelin-starred chefs. High Life sat down with Pedro Subijana, Paco Pérez, Jordi Roca, Julien Royer, Magnus Ek, and Gert De Mangeleer.
WORDS ZSARLENE B. CHUA
Jordi Roca’s desserts aren’t sweet footnotes found at the end of a meal. Rather, they are scientific experiments that know that the way to a man’s heart is through his nose. Take his famed “Scents” series, which distills the essences of classic fragrances and turns them into sensory explosions. “Aromas have a lot of connection to memories,” he said. “My deepest memories are all connected to aromas. You remember better when you smell.”
He is fascinated by olfactory organs, including his own: he turned his prominent hawk-like nose into a popsicle at his Rocambolesc ice cream store. Exploring scents led him to fragrances like Calvin Klein’s “Eternity,” the fruit and herbal notes of which, according to a Time article, he captured by combining “a mandarin orange granita with orange flower gelée, basil, and a vanilla cream.”
Aside from creating 24 fragrance-inspired desserts, he went on to formulate his own perfume, Nuvol al Limona, a scent based on a mix of milk cream, brown butter and lemon sponge cake.
The perfume is currently sold for € 50 for a 100 -ml bottle. The Celler de Can Roca Web site describes Nuvol al Limona as a “creation conceived to rekindle life-affirming childhood memories and express emotions beyond age and gender: the smell of tenderness.”
His novel approach to dessert-making earned him the moniker “magician of desserts.” At El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, guests can try “Rainy Forest,” considered a standout dish by the 2017 edition of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” a list compiled by the British magazine Restaurant. The “Rainy Forest” dessert is presented in the form of a tree trunk and is made of sand distillate water, carob cookie, fir tree dust, anise’s ice cream, fennel, and fir tree granite. The same magazine hailed El Celler de Can Roca, which has a three-star rating from Michelin, as the the best restaurant in the world in 2013. This year, it ranked third.
Playfulness is a big part of Mr. Roca’s dessert philosophy. Aside from popsicles in the shape of his nose, Mr. Roca’s creations include desserts resembling the golden hand of Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister, and the body of Spanish model Andres Velencoso.
During the interview for High Life, Mr. Roca regrettably lost his voice. This, however, did not stop him from expounding on his passion for scents. At one point in the interview, he rose, knelt on his seat and leaned forward as if to tell a juicy secret: He was going to continue his dessert series based on scents, he half mimed, but instead of distilling — which he did in the fragrance series — he is using effleurage, a method that uses odorless animal or vegetable fat to extract the scent from a flower, or in Mr. Roca’s case, leather and sheep wool.
“It’s better,” he said of the series based on effleurage. “There are more tools, a more novel approach. It’s a lot of work.” He saw this method of scent extraction in the 2006 Tom Tykwer thriller, Perfume: Story of a Murderer, which was based on a Patrick Suskind novel of the same name. The film, which can be seen as a tutorial for making perfumes (if one discounts the series of murders and corpses turned into scents), inspired Mr. Roca to try effleurage.
After the conclusion of El Celler de Can Roca’s tour of Chile — the restaurant team is known for closing shop for months to travel and discover new ingredients and develop new dishes — Mr. Roca created a dessert in homage to Chile’s celebrated poet, Pablo Neruda. The dessert, called Oda al Caldillo de Congrio, is a dish made with edible paper printed with one of Mr. Neruda’s poems scented with the aroma of an old book. Mr. Roca said that he hasn’t yet thought of a follow-up to his effleurage series. “It’s the best part,” he said, “where I don’t know what I’m doing next.”
El Celler de Can Roca, Can Sunyer, 4817007, Girona, Spain
Rocambolesc, Santa Clara 50, 17001 Girona, Spain