The Boqueria restaurants, conceived by Yann de Rochefort, are by all accounts a success. And who doesn’t love a restaurant success story? Especially when it results in a hefty and impressive jacketless, paper-over-board cookbook.
At almost 300 pages (286 to be exact), “Boqueria: A Cookbook, From Barcelona to New York” (Bloomsbury Publishing, Absolute Press, $35) is a formidable compilation of recipes for traditional tapas and other dishes representative of Spanish food and drink, particularly those of Barcelona. The cover of the book, released on May 1, features simple block-red letters against a white background, like the restaurant’s logo. It begs to be opened and perused.
The recipes are presented in 10 sensible sections, spanning the spectrum of Spanish cuisine. Headings are clear and the narrative introducing each recipe provides a nice overview of the flavors and construction of each dish. One page — no more, no less — is dedicated to each recipe, many with beautiful photographs to provide a compelling visual. Included are classics — meats, seafoods, vegetables, paellas, salads, desserts and more — plus a section dedicated solely to the drinks and wines from all the regions of Spain. It’s useful, highly informational, and offers the home chef a substantial collection of recipes that may be prepared for everyday dining, as well as for dinner parties and festive occasions. There truly is something for everyone.
I met with Yann de Rochefort, a former marketing executive, at the original Flatiron outpost of Boqueria prior to a public book signing with executive chef and co-author Marc Vidal, at the nearby Rizzoli Bookstore. Born in France and raised in the U.S. from the age of 12, de Rochefort had enjoyed summers sailing all around Spain with his family. “It was not as luxurious as it sounds,” he tells me. “We were a family of six in crowded quarters, but we ate very well, stopping at ports to gather Spanish delicacies for meal preparation on board or at the docks.”
Now, there are six Boqueria restaurants — four in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and another in Washington, D.C. — all offering predominantly Barcelona-influenced cuisine with some French and other European inspirations. De Rochefort was joined in 2010 by Vidal, who serves as executive chef for all locations. The cookbook and six restaurants under this growing empire are named for the largest marketplace in Barcelona, Boqueria, which sells every conceivable ingredient of Spanish food on the famed promenade known as La Rambla.
How Vida and de Rochefort came to forge a working relationship is serendipitous. Vidal, a Barcelona native who followed a passion ignited in childhood at his family’s restaurant, went on to formal studies and cooking in Paris. His father was supportive of the decision, paying for his education, but his maternal grandmother objected. “Don’t do it,” she advised. “You’re crazy. Too much work. Don’t you see what we go through in this business?”
Eventually, his hard work paid off with stints at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Alain Ducasse, and, following a period in Miami, he ultimately landed in New York. A social trip to Manhattan prompted Vidal to meet de Rochefort at the Boqueria in SoHo. Shortly thereafter he was recruited to join de Rochefort’s burgeoning business, and, in the past eight years, has brought his influence and talents to the menus and kitchens of the group. He rotates among them all but holds weekly meetings every Friday with his culinary teams to share ideas and maintain a consistent dialogue.
Zack Bezunartea, director of operations for the group, provides much of the voice in the narratives that open the book and are interspersed throughout in just the right places. This color, together with the well-constructed recipes, make for a substantial and attractive cookbook. At the Rizzoli signing de Rochefort referred to the cookbook as a “passion project — something that felt more personal,” like the care and attention he pays to each of his restaurants, building the vibe and conviviality between the bar and the tables. Together through the book, they are bringing that experience not only to their customer base, but to those who may never dine in one of their restaurants, de Rochefort tells me.
Boqueria, the cookbook, was not undertaken lightly. I learn from Vidal that he retreated to his home kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to produce each and every recipe, making adaptations along the way, ensuring that they would be suitable for the home chef. This endeavor took about 100 hours over the course of two months. Finally, the culmination took place at a large photo studio in Chelsea where meals were prepared, photographed and shared “con la familia” over the course of just one week. Like a restaurant, a cookbook is a labor of love and, in the case of Boqueria, this team has seemingly gotten it all right.
For more, visit boquerianyc.com.