My first thought when I was invited to this dinner was, “What does a bank and (quite literally) one of the best restaurants in the world, El Celler de Can Roca, have in common?”. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, or BBVA, acquired Compass Bank in 2007. Okay, so it’s a Spanish bank, and Spaniards love food and drink. The bank benefits from its association with culinary superstars, such as the Roca brothers, Joan, Josep and Jordi. The Roca brothers get to share their 3 Michelin-starred restaurant (where incidentally you have to reserve a year in advance for a table) with the rest of the world. Plus, two talented culinary students from each location (in our case it was from my alma mater, Arizona Culinary Institute) will travel back to Girona, Spain, to intern at the restaurant for 4 months. And I was lucky enough to be one of the invitees. Got it.
For 5 weeks, the Roca brothers closed El Celler de Can Roca and took 40 members of their staff on a journey from Europe (London), to Asia (Hong Kong), across the Pacific to the U.S. (Phoenix and San Francisco), and down the continent to Santiago de Chile. Learning from the culture and gastronomy of each destination, Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca have paid tribute by preparing menus inspired by regional dishes and using local ingredients. I could imagine it was a logistical nightmare, but it was all carried out with such ease that one would have hardly given it thought.
I knew it was a good sign when, upon check-in we were greeted with plates and plates of jamón ibérico. Many people were milling around chit-chatting, but I wasn’t here for that: I just dove in. Not your run-of-the-mill ham, jamón ibérico comes from the black Iberian pig whose diet consists mainly of acorns. The hams are dried and cured for a period of 12-48 months, depending on the producer. The jamón served this evening was from the Huelva province, which is one of two regions in Spain that has carries its own Denominación de Origen (DOC) for jamón ibérico. Many moons ago, Hubby and I were touring Portugal with our friend, Beto, who is a professional photographer and food writer in Mexico. Beto insisted we take a slight detour into Spain to the hilltop town of Montánchez to the heart of one of the biggest producers of jamón ibérico de bellota. We must have eaten the jamón morning, noon and night. It is super rich and fatty, and frankly, there is nothing in the world like it.
But I digress…I was here for the 14-course meal, and the jamón was just the teaser for what was to be a colorful and tasty repast at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale.
For more information on El Celler de Can Roca, check out the website at:
All photos by Marci Symington, with the exception of the featured image with the Roca brothers and the jamón by Beto Rios.
** A special thank you to Darren George at BBVA Compass for the thoughtful invitation.