Danish chef René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen has announced the closure at the end of 2024 of his restaurant, considered one of the best in the world and repeatedly indicated as the best overall by sector rankings. The Name, said Redzepi al New York Timeswill become a large cooking laboratory for experimenting with new products and dishes, which will be marketed through an e-commerce site and in “pop-up” – that is, temporary – restaurants which will be opened in various cities around the world.
The Noma restaurant and its chef have had a great influence on world haute cuisine in recent years, for the many innovations they have been able to introduce and for making a defined style famous NewNordic, widely imitated also at other latitudes and for example in high-level restaurants in New York. In September 2021 he was promoted by prestigious Michelin guide to the third star, in an acknowledgment that many considered late, while in 2021 it had won the title of Best restaurant in the world for the fifth time in the list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
As in many of the most famous haute cuisine restaurants, to eat at Noma you have to join a long waiting list and be prepared to spend around 500 euros for a many-course tasting menu. In the field of luxury tourism, a meal at Noma could be the basis on which to build an entire holiday in Denmark or Scandinavia. Despite this, chef Redzepi said he had decided to close the restaurant, understood in the traditional way, because haute cuisine would no longer be “economically and emotionally sustainable”.
Redzepi, who opened the restaurant in 2004, has always explained that his cooking required “exhausting, long-hour work” and said he believed it was no longer sustainable to fairly pay some 100 employees, keep standards high, and offer prices at a level acceptable to customers: «Haute cuisine has to rethink its entire industry, so it’s just too hard. Financially and emotionally it doesn’t work: as an entrepreneur and as a human being I feel the need to change”.
Redzepi is known in the world of great chefs for a difficult character, brusque manners and behavior bordering on bullying towards his subordinates. Over the years he said he had worked to improve his leadership, but today managing a restaurant of this level, as well as being anti-economic, has become too stressful for him.
Recently, Noma had also been criticized for using a large number of unpaid interns (20-30). These were attracted by the possibility of learning restaurant methods and secrets, as well as by the possibility of including work experience in the “best restaurant in the world” in their curriculum, obviously highly regarded by possible future employers.
However, some had told of a rather complex and in some ways toxic work environment, in which they were employed for the entire duration of the internship in a single task. One said that for three months he composed only fake fruit skin insects (a fruit purée from which the water is removed): a complex manufacturing job in which he learned little for his future and which he had to carry out in silence . Situations of this type are also quite common in top-level restaurants. After the controversy that had involved him, Noma had decided to pay all the interns.
Redzepi, 45, born into a family of Albanian origins, will not abandon the premises where Noma is now based and will not fire the staff: he says he wants to reinvent the restaurant in a new form, demonstrating that «you can grow old and remain creative, continuing to enjoy doing one’s work. It will be Noma 3.0: the restaurant had already been redesigned once in 2018, on the occasion of a change of location in which the menu and style had also been profoundly renewed.
In its 19-year history, Noma had become a point of reference in world cuisine, first for its choice of using very local ingredients, typical of the Scandinavian culture or collected on site and reworked, then for the way it presented the dishes , often “sculpted” into new shapes, with long processes to transform and enhance their flavours. Over the years Redzepi had increased research and experimentation, using unusual ingredients and plants not normally used in the kitchen, as well as specializing in fermentation processes, which have become the chef’s real specialty.
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Copenhagen’s Noma will close in 2024 – Il Post
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