Perfecte Rocher keeps a fermentation locker to add layers of depth to his dishes. Photo by Morgen Schuler

Spring Dining 2017

The Fervor and Fermentation of Perfecte Rocher

The chef at Tarsan i Jane is shattering conventions.

“My kitchen is my vision,” Perfecte Rocher says during a brief reprieve from the 600-degree wood fire that serves as the sole oven in his Seattle restaurant, Tarsan i Jane.

Driven by bold flavors and a proven dexterity for pushing culinary boundaries at every turn, Rocher’s cooking style is all his own. He uses modern techniques to fuse traditional flavors of Valencia, Spain, with regional ingredients of the Pacific Northwest, and there is no flavor combination, textural medley, or infusion he won’t try: carrot “guacamole,” chrysanthemum consommé, grilled octopus in squid ink with artichoke-leaf tea.

Although new to the Seattle dining scene, Rocher is far from a culinary novice. “I was in the belly of my mother and I was in the kitchen already,” he says. After growing up in his family’s restaurant in Valencia, Rocher carried his heritage with him as he built an impressive resume working alongside Michelin-star chefs in fine dining establishments in Spain, London, San Francisco, and Las Vegas before helping to launch Smoke.Oil.Salt in Los Angeles in 2014. But in 2016, after earning acclaim, Rocher shocked friends and fans when he and his partner, Alia Zaine, broke from Los Angeles’ high-profile dining scene for an uncharted move to Seattle. “For a while I was lost,” Rocher says. “There’s a moment in life when you’re a chef … you do what others want you to do. You start getting awards and it feeds you.”

Now established at Tarsan i Jane, Rocher is embracing the freedom to cook from his heart, while Zaine manages a warm and welcoming front of house. Together, they’re serving Seattle diners evocative flavors that break from the mold. Rocher infuses whimsy into the restaurant’s constantly evolving 12-course tasting menu, with dishes like ou, a soft and crispy egg over toasted chestnut black-truffle purée on a bed of fermented barley; and clotxines, a delicately steamed mussel nestled in silky mussel pâté, with mint oil and tangy lager vinegar, presented in a volcano-shaped dish.

“He’s the most creative person that I know,” Zaine says. “We have file cabinets and boxes full of recipes that he’s made over the years.”

With this creativity comes a keen eye for detail. Rocher constantly modifies his dishes to perfectly showcase the essence of his Valencian heritage and the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Along with sourcing local seafood and produce, Rocher has a voracious appetite for learning about the area’s wild edibles—ingredients like miner’s lettuce, wild mushrooms, cress, and nettles. To add layers of depth to his dishes, Rocher keeps a fermentation locker packed with house-crafted kimchi, pickled peppers, sprouted chickpeas, and fermented grains.

Always up for a challenge, Rocher says he loves to transform basic ingredients into elevated dishes his patrons will relish. In his remolatxa, he presents “beets in textures,” composed of a fire-roasted beet, beet purée, daikon paper dipped in beet juice, and a delicate beet sorbet, finished with housemade yogurt, basil olive oil, and pistachios.

“Everyone wants to do something that’s safe,” Rocher says. “What we do here is very real.” 4012 Leary Way N.W., 557-7059, tarsanijane.com.

food@seattleweekly.com