“Last summer we had an event in Berlin. We served dinner to 60 people but we didn’t know what we were going to cook until we arrived. We flew there with a bunch of smoked ducks in our suitcases and when we arrived, we went to the market for the remainder of the ingredients. It was a very spontaneous way to create the menu in based on using the freshest ingredients that complimented the space. To be that spontaneous was a big challenge.”
Last January Buster and Jakob started smoking food on their Rooftop in Sant Antoni and they haven’t stopped since. They are both very great and creative chefs that pay attention to the ingredients they use. They found a space at Fabrica Lehman, one of those magical spots in Barcelona. They are building a kitchen to move all their production there. They invited us to visit their new space and we had a nice chat about their project.
How did Rooftop Smokehouse begin?
J: We both went to Hoffman cooking school 5 years ago and we always talked about pop up restaurants. When we finished school, Buster started working in a restaurant and I went to France to work in different places. I came back last year and we both started doing pop ups. The first project we did was a gastro pub. It was called The Horse and Heron. We wanted to learn a new cooking technique so we decided to make a smoked starter. People really liked it and we started doing more smoked products. This January we did our first open event in La Confitería.
What is the concept of Rooftop Smokehouse cuisine?
J: We always try to do things that you can’t find in Barcelona. There is great food in Barcelona but sometimes it can become monotonous. We wanted to offer a British-northern European style of food.
“The nice thing about this set up is you are doing a new event all the time. That allows us creating something new every time. You have to think about a new concept, new menu, new food and new way to eat it.”
What influenced you?
J: I’m from the Tirol, in northern Italy in the German speaking part, where there is a strong culture of smoked foods. The farms have a kitchen that works with fire and at home we have a big chimney and we hang the food there.
B: I was there in winter and it was amazing. Just one fire heats your house, heats your water, cooks your food and dries your clothes. We are going to have the same system here (hahaha).
Why did you decide to be a pop up project?
B: If you have a restaurant, it´s amazing when you first open, but then it becomes a routine. Sometimes restaurants have to reinvent themselves because they keep doing the same. The nice thing about this set up is you are doing a new event all the time. That allows us creating something new every time. You have to think about a new concept, new menu, new food and new way to eat it. We spend all the time thinking so we can make it different and better than the last time.
Could you please tell us about the types of smoke and how the processes are?
J: The first thing you have to do is brine the product you want to smoke. Everything that is smoked is salted before. Usually there are two techniques of smoking: cold and hot smoke. Cold smoke is a preservation technique that consists on drying and smoking at the same time. It’s a really old technique, actually from the caveman era. They noticed that when they cooked the meat it lasted longer. But they also noticed that it lasted even longer when they hung it from the top of the cave where the smoke passed by. Hot smoking is more like a cooking technique. There are different styles, like the barbeque, which is quite typical of the southern United States or the hot smoking of fish from the northern England or Scotland. We use both styles.
“It is really important not to just source the best ingredients but also to have a connection with your suppliers. It’s fun and it’s also an important part of our work.”
What is key when smoking?
B: Depending on what product you want to smoke, you need a different type of smoke. It is very important to use a dense hardwood, like any fruitwood, because it is much more stable. For instance, if you use pinewood, it burns really quickly and you don’t get a good flavor. It’s also very important to control the combustion heat. One thing that is important is the temperature inside the barrel, but you also have to control the temperature at which the wood is burning. If you burn it too low, you don’t extract all the good flavors from the wood, but if you burn it too high you burn away all the good ones. It’s basically about finding a balance.
What’s your philosophy about sourcing the ingredients?
B: The product we use is really important for us. We try to know where all our ingredients come from. For example, we get all the meat from Cal Rovira, an outstanding pig farmer. They have healthy happy pigs. We spent a lot of time driving around Catalunya visiting different pig farms before we found this one. We saw some awful places. We’ve been working very close to Cal Rovira since the beginning. They are really cool people and Jordi, the farmer, is amazing. It is really important not to just source the best ingredients but also to have a connection with your suppliers. It’s fun and it’s also an important part of our work.
Why do you think it’s important to have that direct communication with your suppliers?
J: It’s really positive to have this contact with the farmer. Imagine if we got a product that we didn’t like, we could just call them and tell them. However, if we got it from some middleman this message will never get to the farmer. That’s what quality is about. Quality is the result of this feedback.
B: At the same time, we are constantly learning new things such as how to breed pigs, how they eat and at what times of the year they are fatty. These details are important; you can’t lose that connection. Of course, this is not just with the meat, but also with the vegetables, the bread and the rest of ingredients we use.
Everything you make is handmade with a special care for all the details. Why are handmade products so important to you?
We enjoy creating and thinking about all the details. Carla and Lena, the other two members of the team, work in fashion. They take great care with the presentation of our products. They truly enjoy making everything themselves. They made the aprons and the cutting boards we used to serve the food in the last Kinfolk event. It’s our way of working and the philosophy we all believe in.