“My dog’s love helped me recover from cancer, and now she always accompanies me in the restaurant room.”

“My dog’s love helped me recover from cancer, and now she always accompanies me in the restaurant room.”

Biana ValleyIt's midday on Friday, and on the road leading to Camprodon de la Val di Peña, cars are going up and down smoothly. Beyond the bend, the iron figure of a woodcock appears majestically. His wings spread, as if he's about to fly, he points to the name of the restaurant, Cal Enrique. On the outdoor balcony, a group of friends gather around a fire on the floor. Later, they'll be sitting near my table and I'll know they're a group of sniper hunters. Everything is connected to each other. I pushed open the door, introduced myself, and immediately a calm and confident Juan Junca came out. Behind him, almost chasing him, appears Nina, Joan's dog. Joan showed me the areas of the restaurant: the cellar – beautiful, with a modern door that carries a lot of history – the kitchen – where the younger brother Jordi Junca (39) is located – and finally the dining room. My table is in front of the window where I can see the old Roman road. Joan sits at the table so I can conduct the interview. At his feet lay Nina. Later, Isabelle, the cook, middle sister (54 years old) will come to greet us.

In what year were you diagnosed with colon cancer and when did your children give you Nina?

– In 2013, the first, the colon, and in 2016, it moved to the lung. In the second operation, the children gave me Nina, who came from a litter of fourteen puppies. I never liked dogs, but I'm sure the unconditional love he gave me cured me fifty percent. The other, the doctors, of course, with the operations, all the chemotherapy sessions at the Trotta Hospital in Girona, and then also in the individual rooms at the Olot Hospital.

You're definitely saying that, Nina played an active role in it.

– That's how I feel. When I would come back from chemotherapy sessions, I would lie in bed, and she would be, at my feet, looking for my contact. He constantly gave me unconditional love. And of course the whole family. Having cancer led me to wonderful situations, like having my mother holding one hand and my wife holding the other. When he reflected on what he had experienced, he thought, “How satisfied I feel.”

I have never been to a Michelin star restaurant where there was a dog roaming around peacefully.

— It was a coincidence that Nina came in. I had always tied it to the door during services, but one day a client suggested I bring it. A very special phenomenon happens with Nina, which is that everyone drools. It is so good and calm that everyone appreciates it. A client told me about this, and it made me see that Nina is part of the family and that the clients treat her well and feel comfortable. It creates a very nice atmosphere in the room.

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Can guests also bring animals?

-I made a rule that Nina and two other dogs can be inside the restaurant. Since doing this, we have built loyal customers who thank us often.

I didn't hear Nina bark the whole time we were talking. I would say he embodies your feelings, or you have a lot of complicity in working with him.

– He picks up emotions very quickly. It is a mix between a Labrador and a golden retriever, the two types that are usually used as guide dogs for the blind.

Ca l'Enric is more of a family restaurant than ever. I saw your son Adria in the pastry shop, and your son Marty in the living room. Your young lady, Sylvia, is the nutritionist and sommelier, who made me discover very good wines.

– When I got sick in 2013, I told my sisters, Jordi and Isabel, that I would dedicate myself to myself, and that my job was my health. I was like this for ten years, until I joined again. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, Jair, walked into the restaurant, at the Hostal, which we opened during the pandemic and took over the space where we held our wedding receptions. I took charge of the room, and along with my sister Isabel, they were the ones who took it upon themselves to move forward.

I went there for lunch during the pandemic times when we could afford to move, and it seemed like an unbeatable offer.

– It still is. From Tuesday to Friday you can eat there for twenty-two euros. During the weekend, you can eat a la carte. We prepare menus for one hundred and fifty people, and this is our capacity. We did it right, during the pandemic, with Hostal, and thanks to that, I didn't have to collect help from the government. You are paid if you have more than thirty percent losses.

Woodcock, in various parts, is one of Ca l'Enric's dishes.

Ca l'Enric is only open at noon.

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—We are open Tuesday through Sunday, take lunch only and have a forty-hour staff schedule. The world has changed, and we have to adapt to it, because new generations want to work regularly, and in the classroom, in particular, there is a shortage of professions. We have promoted the kitchen a lot, but not the living room which acts as a transmitter for the kitchen.

Joan, I've noticed so much love for the spaces you've shown me As a waiter and head of the room Until we got to the table.

– Because Ca Lanrique is my home. I am lucky to receive dinner in my home, where I was born. I did my first job at home, when I was ten years old. I stood behind the bar and prepared change for the customers. The second task was making coffee. I remember my parents putting a box on the floor so I could reach the machine to make it. And another third: offering coffee and tobacco as well. This is where I learned the craft of service and dealing with employees on a daily basis. The Sigalians had prepared them the way he knew they wanted them. I recognized the brand of tobacco they were asking me for. I made them a designer dress, because I learned to understand what they want and what they need.

You have learned to give bits of happiness, and you have seen that it is still that way by the way they talk to you.

-I really love my job. I want them to feel comfortable and understand the philosophy of our home. I always say that in Ca l'Enric there are three heavy weights: the solid part, the liquid part and the human part. And the last, the human being, is what our parents taught us, because the best Michelin service is to give the customer what he wants. She did this by offering the coffee and a packet of tobacco that everyone wanted.

Your young lady is in charge of the liquid part, that is, the wine part.

— At Cal Enrique, for a long time, food was seventy percent important. We wanted to take it a step further in terms of wine and sparkling wine, and now I would say we're at fifty percent. Sylvia connects with new generations who understand more about wine, and who want to taste new bottles.

I have a feeling most of the customers in the room are locals, and they know you well too.

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-Ninety percent of our diners are locals, repeaters, and those who know us. We made them loyal.

They should ask you for the scholarship.

-You'll lose it too. As a restaurant, we try to make magical products last, because if not, today's culinary culture is going in a different direction. Creatures who are now ten or twelve years old, when they are fifty, will not know how to find barbecue dishes or stews, because they grow up imitating sushi.

Woodpecker soup with bread is a statement in favor of Catalan cuisine.

– It's like this. We want to show that a fine woodcock soup with bread can be on the menu in a Michelin-starred restaurant. We must protect our kitchen, and we must protect it by cooking it. I would argue that the old taste is very much ours, such as that represented by sausage, but the food industry skews tastes towards other flavours, such as salty. Our barbecue stinks amazing.

Joan, I've seen how you deal with your son and the young woman in the room. It's like you're taking charge, but you're so young. You are the eldest of three siblings, but you are fifty-six years old.

– I take charge, yes, and at the same time I work to realize my dream, which is to create a new Ca l'Enric. We will move it to the top floor where the Hostal is located. It will be surrounded by the forests of Vall de Bianya and will have ten fewer seats than Ca l'Enric on the route (it will range from forty to thirty). I dream of knowing how to make a career transition, and knowing how to do it with my family, children, and siblings. Let's go, I'll show you the space. Take the coat.

[Pugem turó amunt. El Joan va al meu costat i darrere nostre la Nina.]

– Do you see this scene? I want to build a modest restaurant there, with glass, in which this landscape is selected, which is what we have seen since we were children. Those who come to Ca l'Enric and see the golden sunset that we see now will understand us more than ever. We are not a hierarchy, but a family working together, which we will know how to explain better than ever before.

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