Joan Roca: “As chefs we have a great responsibility”

The prominent chef Joan Roca, main chef at El Celler de Can Roca, is the ambassador of LiverScreen, a research program that aims to reduce mortality caused by liver diseases. It will analyse how an early detection program of liver fibrosis among high risk population can help to prevent deaths. Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic is one of the participants in the program and thanks to the professionals at the Hepatology Service Roca has become the visible face of this project. LiverScreen is an  Horizon 2020 which also counts with the participation of the European Liver Patient’s Association (ELPA) and GENESIS Biomed, among others.

¿Por qué ha aceptado ser ambajador de LiverScreen y cuál va a ser su rol en el proyecto?

I have been friends for years with Dr. Pere Ginés, Head of Hepatology at Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic, and Núria Fabrellas, Universitat de Barcelona Professor and nurse, which are the leaders of the project. They asked me if I wanted to be LiverScreen ambassador. On the other hand my brothers at Celler de Can Roca and me try to collaborate in many projects related to health and food that benefit people.  We are always happy to participate when it comes to promote healthy eating habits and to support research projects such as LiverScreen. I believe that from our profession we can give visibility and create awareness about the importance of taking food very seriously.

What should be the role of famous chefs and, in general, professional cooks in health education?

We are aware that we have a responsibility. Food has a fundamental role in people’s health. But not just in health, our work is also closely related to our planet’s sustainability. In our daily job we are seeing how climate change is transforming seasonal products. We must we aware that taking care of our health we are also taking care of our planet. Luckily as famous our voice is heard from very different areas. We have to take advantage and use our prestige with responsibility. With more prestige, comes more responsibility.

Joan Roca
How are you planning to increase awareness about liver disease?

Basically, communicating the importance of eating healthy and applying my knowledge to this area. Most of us know which food should be part of a healthy diet and which food should be only eaten occasionally. In El Celler de Can Roca we collaborate in different initiatives like participating in conferences, publishing books and being part of organisations that promote healthy eating such as the Gasol Foundation, that focuses on sport and healthy eating to avoid children’s obesity.

We also try to influence in public policies, especially in Education policies. In my opinion schools should introduce a subject around cooking as it is fundamental for the children’s and the planet’s future health.

How would you increase awareness among children and youngsters on the need to eat healthy?

Through cooking you can teach other subjects like science, cooking is an experimental activity with physical and chemical reactions. Instead of doing experiments without a clear objective we can teach kids to cook: it is a more fun way of learning chemistry and physics. Moreover, we can teach them about the qualities of the different foods and to reject non-healthy products, which, incidentally, are very attractive for children. Maybe this way we could revert the current trend of unhealthy eating among young people. Schools are key to educate children and teenagers to eat well.

How do you promote healthy habits in your daily work at El Celler de Can Roca?

Ours is a hedonist restaurant where clients come once a year or even once in a lifetime so our obligation as a gastronomic restaurant is to offer them pleasure, a sensory experience. That being said in the last years we have lighten our menus and sauces but the pleasure of haute cuisine remains. We think this is necessary if we want to keep evolving and maintain our reputation. This reputation is what allow us to influence the public when we promote healthy eating.

What about your personal life, how do you stay healthy?

I practice sport, I ride my bicycle every day, and eat as healthy as possible. I cook every night for my family and try to educate my children to have a varied and healthy diet. I also encourage the healthy habit of eating together as a family and talk around the table. Habits like these are less and less common today.

From your point of view, a healthy diet is closely related to our planet’s sustainability.

Absolutely. We can look after our health by eating local and seasonal products, by eating fresh food and cooking at home, and  rejecting ready-made meals. We should not throw food away. By doing this we look after our health and the health of our planet. We should not consume products that are being transported from the other side of the globe.