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We take a look at Copenhagen's renowed restaurant
Noma is a world-renowned restaurant — it sits at number one on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, just to name one accolade — but often its notoriety precedes it. If you’ve been lucky enough to snag one of the difficult reservations at Noma, upon your return you will often be bombarded with questions by people trying to understand what the food there even is. Most know that the restaurant is Nordic and modern and often uses unconventional ingredients, but what is often missing from the description is the precision, deliciousness, and incredible detail in both preparation and presentation. Because there are so many courses, a meal there is often hard to describe — and even if someone tries to describe it, it is nearly impossible without visual aid.
So for those who want an inside look, watch the video above! And hopefully it will make you look forward to our next ‘At the Chef’s Table’ with René Redzepi starting April 22 and continuing each Monday for five weeks.
All photos courtesy of Daniel Gourvitch.
Inside Noma Japan: Clam Tarts, Ants, and a Spectacular View
Chef/foraging enthusiast René Redzepi's hotly anticipated Noma Tokyo pop-up is finally under way at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The chef told Saveur that he's "dreamt of something like this for years." He adds," Much has been written about the range and beauty and complexity of Japanese cuisine. But there's still so much for all of us, cooks and eaters, to learn from its examples. That's why we're in Japan now."
Over the past few months, there has been much speculation about what the menu would look like, especially because Redzepi is known for using obscure ingredients in avant-garde ways.The chef hinted to the Wall Street Journal in November that the menu would be kept "primarily vegetarian" but he was thinking of serving horse meat, venison tongue, and possibly even farm-raised turtle. Redzepi also revealed that the dishes would make use of atypical but local ingredients like larvae from lethal hornets, Japanese ants, and wild kiwis.
Ramen maestro Ivan Orkin attended the first night of the pop-up — last night — and Instagrammed his entire meal. Some of the aforementioned ingredients — namely the ants — made it on to the menu, alongside a labor intensive clam tart ("45 clams per tart, 13 people shucking for 8 hours"), chocolate-dipped mushrooms, rice ice cream, and more. Below, a look at Noma Japan and its menu (so far):
Here's How To Make Kombucha According To Noma's René Redzepi
Fermentation is an art — and chef Rene Redzepi is a master of it. His Michelin-starred restaurant Noma in Copenhagen is widely regarded as one of the best in the world, and his intriguing new cookbook is dishing out some of their most distinctive recipes and techniques.
In a recent interview with us, Rene explained that fermentation has been key to their success as culinary innovators. Written alongside his partner in (kitchen) crime, David Zilber, The Noma Guide to Fermentation distills 10 years of trial and error into a comprehensive guide that is as creative as the men behind it.
Noma is known for its innovative use of fermentation to turn hyper-seasonal ingredients into pure magic. While some of the recipes in the book are certainly complex, this apple kombucha recipes is simple and useful enough to make again and again. Learn how to make your own seasonal (probiotic-rich!) kombucha according to the best chef in the world…
Kombucha doesn’t need much equipment other than a glass or plastic container of at least 2.5-liter capacity. Don’t use metal containers—they can react negatively with the acid in the kombucha plus, you won’t be able to see what’s going on inside. A SCOBY needs access to oxygen, so avoid vessels with tapered necks, like carboys. Large, wide-mouth canning jars work fantastically clear plastic buckets and tall Tupperware also do the job nicely. You’ll also need cheesecloth or a breathable kitchen towel to cover the vessel, and larger rubber bands to secure it. And as with any of the sensitive microbes in this book, the SCOBY is best handled while wearing nitrile or latex gloves.
2 kilograms unfiltered apple juice
200 grams unpasteurized kombucha (or the liquid that comes with a packaged SCOBY)
Juicing your own apples will allow you to use local varieties and create a blend to your liking, but feel free to use a good-quality store-bought unfiltered apple cider farmstands often sell fresh-pressed cider in season. Because the juice is naturally sweet, you won’t need to add sugar to this recipe.
Combine The Ingredients. Pour the apple juice into the fermentation vessel. To jump-start fermentation and to help prevent unwanted microbes from getting a foothold, backslop the infusion by adding the 200 grams unpasteurized kombucha to your vessel (which is 10 percent of the weight of your other ingredients). Ideally, you’ll be backslopping with a previous batch of kombucha, or a complementary flavor. If this is your first batch, use the liquid that your SCOBY came packaged in. Stir well with a clean spoon. Put on your gloves and carefully place the SCOBY into the liquid. It should float, but don’t worry too much if it sinks—it sometimes takes a day or two to rise to the surface.
Cover It Up. Cover the top of the fermentation vessel with cheesecloth or a breathable kitchen towel and secure it with a rubber band. Fruit flies love the scent of acetic acid and alcohol, and will be particularly drawn to your new kombucha, so you’ll want to do everything you can to keep them out. Label the kombucha with its variety and the start date so you can easily keep track of its progress. Set it in a warm place.
Consider The Temp. SCOBYs work best in slightly warm settings. If you’re brewing in the summertime, you’ll probably notice that your kombucha finishes faster than in the winter. In Noma’s fermentation lab, we keep our kombucha room at a steady 28°C/82°F to encourage speedy production, but you don’t need to dedicate a whole room of your house to kombucha. It will ferment just fine, albeit slightly more slowly, at room temperature. If you like, you can place your kombucha close to a radiator or on a high shelf in the kitchen to provide an environment that’s slightly warmer than room temperature.
Keep An Eye Out. As the days go by, you’ll notice the SCOBY growing significantly, fueled by the sugar in the liquid. Every other day or so, peel back the cloth covering enough to get a good look at the SCOBY. It should extend out toward the sides of your vessel, while also thickening in the middle. You may also see it puffing up in some areas as the yeast releases carbon dioxide. If you notice the top of the SCOBY drying out, use a ladle to pour a little liquid over it. The liquid keeps the SCOBY acidified, staving off mold growth.
Check The Progress. There are a few different ways to measure the progress of the kombucha itself. The simplest method is one you’re already well equipped for: Taste it. At Noma, we look for our kombuchas to maintain the essence of their base ingredient, while developing complexity and a harmonious opposition of sweetness and acidity. Put more simply: It’s done when it tastes good. The kombuchas we brew at the restaurant usually take 7 to 9 days to ferment to our desired taste. If you enjoy sour kombucha, then let it ferment for an extra day or two.
Track The Acidity. In the fermentation lab, we use equipment to measure the acidity and sweetness of our kombuchas in order to maintain consistency from batch to batch. A refractometer allows you to track sugar levels in the brew. Taking a measurement in the beginning lets you know how much sugar you started with, and each subsequent measure tells you how much is left. A pH meter or pH strips gauge acid content. Infused lemon verbena syrup will begin with a pH of just under 7, which is close to neutral. Backslopping with a previous batch of kombucha should drop the pH to about 5. Fermentation further increases the acidity to between 4 and 3.5. If you’re equipped and inclined, keep track of your kombucha’s progress and measure the pH and sugar content of the final product so it’s easier to replicate.
Monitor For Mold. If colorful (pink, green, or black) mold shows up on your SCOBY, it means your base liquid probably wasn’t acidulated enough at the outset. (Though a healthy SCOBY may develop slight variations in color.) Don’t try to salvage the liquid or SCOBY in this instance, as pathogenic molds can produce harmful toxins that dissolve into the liquid. Trying to identify whether an invasive mold is malignant or benign isn’t worth the risk. You can always brew more kombucha.
Test + Transfer. Use pH strips to check the acidity of the kombucha. When the pH has reached 3.5 to 4, the kombucha should be close to ready. Once you’re satisfied with your kombucha’s flavor, put on a pair of gloves and remove the SCOBY. Transfer it to a plastic or glass container into which the SCOBY fits snugly, and cover with three to four times its volume in kombucha. Cover the container with cheesecloth or a breathable kitchen towel, and secure it with rubber bands. It’s fine to let the SCOBY hang out at room temperature if you intend to make another batch within the next few days. If you’re not using the SCOBY again soon, store it in the fridge until you’re ready.
Strain + Store. Strain the remaining kombucha through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a fine chinois. Now you can enjoy it straight away, or save it for later consumption or use in a recipe. Kombucha will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for 4 to 5 days without much change in flavor. You can also freeze it in an airtight plastic container or vacuum-sealed bag if you’ve made a larger batch than you can use immediately. To freeze your kombucha, chill it in the fridge for a few hours to slow fermentation before packing it into the container or bag, or it could inflate and even burst before freezing solid. It may take you a couple of tries to nail a kombucha you’re happy enough with to take to work or school. That’s fine! You can still use overfermented kombucha for syrups. Meanwhile, your SCOBY will happily dive into a new batch, so keep trying.
Bottling kombucha will extend its shelf life and encourage carbonation. A day or two before you’re happy with the flavor (gauging this point will come with experience), strain the liquid, transfer it to sterilized swing-top bottles (or regular beer bottles, if you have a capping tool), and move them to the refrigerator. The residual bacteria and yeasts in the liquid will continue to work, even in the fridge. Bottling traps the gases from fermentation, some of which will dissolve into the liquid. A kombucha fermenting in open air will have a slight effervescence, but bottling will increase the bubbliness.
Take care not to bottle your kombucha too early. If there’s too much residual sugar in the kombucha, it will fuel an excess amount of carbon dioxide production, which can result in exploding glass bottles. To mitigate this risk, make sure your kombucha is close to where you want the finished product before bottling—around 8°Bx, if you’re measuring with a refractometer. Be sure to keep bottles in the fridge and consume them within a couple of weeks.
Apple Kombucha Herb Tonic
Blending apple kombucha with fresh herbs infuses the liquid with ethereal aromatic qualities. In Copenhagen, we’re fortunate to be able to take a walk around the neighborhood and find young Douglas fir branches to make a brisk apple-pine tonic. (Whir 25 grams fresh fir needles with 500 grams apple kombucha in a blender, strain, and serve.) But you can also find plenty of suitable dance partners for apple kombucha at your local market. Use a stand blender to whir half a bunch of basil or 10 grams picked rosemary needles with 500 grams apple kombucha. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve for an invigorating pick-me-up.
Blending cooked vegetables with fruit kombuchas is an absolutely delicious way to get a little fiber (and also a great way to sneak more vegetables into your kids’ diets). Good matches for apple kombucha include spinach, sorrel, cabbage, or baked beets (which also pair well with rose kombucha). Because the vegetables are so full of fiber, they will thicken
up in a blender nicely. Aim for a 4:1 ratio of kombucha to vegetable, and blend for at least a minute before passing it through a fine-mesh sieve and serving.
Adapted from The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Evan Sung. Illustrations by Paula Troxler.
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The New “New Nordic”10/7/16 By Alison Spiegel
Caramelized milk skin with grilled pork belly and cress: If you haven’t heard about this dish from Noma’s three-month-old sister restaurant, 108, get ready. It’s on its way to cult status—one of those bragging points that culinary insiders use as badges of honor.
But unlike its Chef’s Table-worthy competition (think Noma’s smoked quail eggs or Alinea’s black truffle explosion), this dish—reduced milk that cooks down in a frying pan into a delicate crepe, only to be filled with nine-hour-cooked pork belly, then finished on the grill to order𠅍oesn’t come on a prohibitively expensive tasting menu at the other end of an impossible reservation line. Oh, and no panicking over which fancy fork to use either: It's meant to be eaten with your hands, like a burrito.
Welcome to the new new Nordic cuisine, where restaurants with the same commitment to foraged, hyper-local and seasonal ingredients that we’ve come to know and love are more casual, affordable and accessible than ever.
Caramelized Milkskin with Grilled Pork Belly and 108 Chef Kristian Baumann | Photos: Hannah Grant
On the heels of trailblazers like Christian Puglisi, who opened the casual, vegetable-forward wine bar Manfreds after his Michelin starred Relæ, and the Kadeau team, who made a similar move with PONY, the scale has finally tipped from impossibly priced, upscale openings toward places with lower costs, lighter moods and à la cart options.
These new spots may not be outright budget friendly, but they’re not the once-in-a-lifetime bank-emptiers that came before them. While a meal at Noma could cost you $440 a person with the wine pairings, dinner at 108 can easily stay under $100.
It’s not just the prices that have calmed down though. “We pour the first glass of wine but then you do it yourself the tables are close to promote conversations the menu is à la carte, because we want our guests to choose their evening,” 29-year-old executive chef Kristian Baumann says of 108. “We want people to relax and have fun.”
Baumann isn’t the only one letting loose. Christian Gadient, Denmark's youngest Michelin-starred head chef, is also putting this relaxed and inviting philosophy to work. Gadient left his fine dining digs at Marchal to head up the kitchen at four-month-old Spontan, a restaurant in new brewpub Brus, which is also home to a beer store, bar and brewery. Visitors eat and drink amid barrels and fermentation tanks in an open, industrial space surrounded by whitewashed brick.
“We have nothing to hide,” says Gadient, who creates showstopping dishes like short ribs with smoked bone marrow and pickled gooseberries, and poached turbot with pickled chanterelle mushrooms (see the recipe) each night to pair with the beer sold in the adjacent shop and bar.
Spotan Chef Christian Gradient | Photo: Robin Neil
On trading white tablecloths in favor of exposed ceiling pipes, Gadient says, “I liked the idea of the flexibility and freedom connected to opening a place like this. It leaves me more possibilities to be spontaneous, change concepts and exchange ideas.” Hence the restaurant’s name.
The prix fixe meal with a beer pairing is under $100, and an à la carte option may make its way from the bar to the main restaurant soon.
Along with Spontan and 108, the recently opened Bodil also strikes that sweet spot of elevated new Nordic cuisine that’s easy on the wallet. Chef Mads Rye Magnussen comes to this cozy restaurant from the three-Michelin-star Geranium, where dinner and drinks cost close to $500 times more than a five-course meal at Bodil. Then there’s vegetable-driven Väkst, which also opened this year. Bringing local to a new level, the kitchen uses ingredients grown inside the greenhouse-like dining room, which is adorned with hanging plants and rope swings.
“We wanted to create a restaurant that captured the nature of the garden party and prolonged the feel of Danish summer,” Nikolai Lind, a representative for the restaurant, explains.
Finally, booking a table at one of the city’s top restaurants doesn’t have to feel like a lofty dream. And a dish as exquisite as 108’s smoky grilled monkfish, glazed in a sauce made of three-month fermented sourdough, seaweed and mushrooms, and served with succulent-like ice plant, isn’t out of reach. You might even stop in for a house-made rose-syrup pastry on the way to work or for a light lunch at the bar. The doors are open after all. And then you might return for dinner𠅏or that amazing milk skin—just because you can.
An Exclusive Look at the New Kitchen at Noma, Copenhagen
A few weeks back in Copenhagen, Noma —the hardest restaurant in the world to get into, with some 20,000 daily reservation requests—shut its doors to begin a complete kitchen reboot. The staff clocked out around 2 a.m. as June came to a close. Four hours later, the contractors poured in. After ten years, the restaurant had simply outgrown the old space.
Founding chef Rene Redzepi appointed his new lieutenant, Daniel Giusti , head of the project. With a budget of almost $1 million, the American transplant would be rebuilding the kitchen from scratch. He integrated suggestions from the rest of the chefs.
“I went through with all the guys, ‘What do you need? What are you missing? What don’t you need?’” said Giusti. “Everyone has a bit of ownership.”
He worked with the same Danish design team, Space Copenhagen , responsible for the dining room’s earth-tone wood-and-stone décor, and with the high-end kitchen wizards at Belgian firm Maes Inox .
The kitchen at Noma has always been a showcase. The glass-enclosed space is the first thing diners encounter as they walk in the front door (the chefs often come out to greet new arrivals). The redesign had a number of goals: to be more aesthetically in synch with the rest of the space while becoming at the same time a more efficient and pleasant place to work.
While most of the Noma team enjoyed a well-earned vacation, the construction crew began gutting the kitchen. Only two ovens would be saved everything else—from the stone tile on the walls to the plumbing and wiring—would be entirely new.
It took just 19 days for the new kitchen to take physical shape. By August 1, the restaurant was ready to reopen on schedule.
The new Noma kitchen doesn’t actually look like much, however—which is exactly the point. It’s a pared-down, scaled-back, streamlined endeavor—a study in doing more with much less. Inside it’s all empty space, which means there’s plenty of room to maneuver. All of the equipment has been hidden away. Stainless-steel countertops have been replaced by dark granite with compartments for tools built right in. At two stations the granite is heated, to keep dishes warm as plates are assembled. Underneath, within easy reach, are combi ovens and blast chillers, refrigerator and freezer drawers, and immersion circulators tucked away in their own pullout compartments. A Hold-o-mat, also waist-high, keeps things crispy and warm.
Extra space on the counters means room for more hands on deck, as many as 18 or 19 individual cooks. That’s the number it takes to plate up and send out the rapid-fire procession of snacks—13 on the most recent menu—that begin every meal.
There’s always been a blurring of the lines between sweet and savory at the restaurant. In the new kitchen, the pastry section is no longer segregated in an adjoining room. “We’re much more together as a team now,” Redzepi said a few weeks after reopening.
You’ll also find the occasional homey touch. Redzepi bought five stuffed birds from a local taxidermist, Nordic fowl like puffin and snipe, which line a shelf above the appetizer station. Photos from the first edition of Cook It Raw , an international chef gathering first held in the original kitchen in 2009, hang below the ceiling, which has been raised 13 inches. Redzepi had hoped to install a working fireplace, but the building’s ancient wood beams would go up in flames. Instead there’s a shelving unit lined with potted herbs and greens—bringing the outside in—and a few favorite cookbooks. And for the first time there’s music. During morning prep the staff often blasts electronic dance tunes over their new Sonos system.
“If you enter our restaurant you might not notice a big change,” said Redzepi, “but for us it was huge.”
Noma: New Normal In Perfect Dining
It is important to walk to Noma over city bridges and along waterfront streets to embrace Copenhagen’s bone chilling winter. February Noma meals are miraculously conceived outdoors natural bounties harvested, pickled, smoked, or dried in step with a harsh Scandinavian winter calendar. Only then are they skillfully nurtured into a series of intellectually compelling courses indoors at the 18th century waterside warehouse restaurant that pays hommage to the building’s historical inhabitants who likewise processed whale and cod yielded by the same aquatic resources. Transporting yourself to Noma insulated by taxi, bus, or metro will just mask half of the Noma story and moderate an otherwise fuller sensory appreciation of Noma’s transformative dining experience.
If you are part of the sensible majority of travelers less compelled to visit Scandinavia in the wintertime, then just doing some research or using common sense tells you its frozen environment is virtually void of gill-bearing aquatic or other animal presence and that even in mountain valleys where snowpack can preserve food, life is a struggle for mammals that man can hunt, harvest, and eat. Yet, Noma accepts the seasonal challenge presenting twenty courses twice each day that includes just harvested foodstuffs like cod liver, brown crab, wild duck, lump fish roe, and more. Noma is both a tightrope of tension in its careful transformation of scarcity to riches, and a featherbed of hospitality cushioning guests from complicated formulas involving thousands of steps the staff of seventy works through every day to produce twenty courses for twelve tables of roughly thirty diners each service.
Maybe that’s why the chefs (not waiters nor runners) present every dish to every guest, leaning physically into the table, sometimes squatting to be nonintrusive, offering a few words of welcome or endearing mid-meal check ins, ready to answer questions or simply chat about their lives at Noma or as twenty-somethings traveling the world circuit of sacred cooking posts. Everyone at Noma can cook everything, which is why the cold course chefs can expertly present the warm courses when those chefs are busy, and why pastry chefs can talk about wine in the most advanced ways. It is also why Noma hires first on personality and second on cooking resume. Seems like Redzepi knows that it is simpler for him to teach his craft of cooking than to develop the people skills that makes Noma feel like you are eating at these accomplished chefs’ homes where tablecloths are banned, stretches of formal cutlery scorned, and relaxed atmosphere required.
Spa-like in feel from muted design palate to calming aromas from Japanese-like warm cloths…sitting down inside Noma is disarming. The discombobulated formation of a gaggle of seven or eight chefs, waiters, sommeliers, and other staff hanging out in the entranceway to calmly welcome you with smiles of warmth followed by an every day, not rushed, soothing table side welcome from your main server is a first hint why the third star should never show up after Noma’s two star Michelin guide listing. Noma has turned ingenious dining without the intimidating intrusive suffocation of classic French three star service de rigueur. Noma earns the permission to shred what we once knew about the service of impeccably skillful cooking through sensory conquest.
There are great cookbooks to take you through a bit of karma and the ton of steps that make Noma food what it is. They give me comfort in abandoning my own attempt, and instead to just share some thoughts and photos. A meal at Noma is presented in two parts the first part a series of approximately one dozen small plate, often finger food courses and then a second part of a series of slightly larger savory then sweet dishes. Every dish surprises without whiplash. The first half of the meal builds with allegro tempo, the body of work producing a range of flavor that feels just right and quintessentially Nordic even if you have no idea what Nordic winter should taste like. You just know.
The dried, grilled, smoked, pickled, cold, preserved flavors combine with the short list of nature’s fresh winter options in well tested and regimented Noma recipes that makes you say “ah hah, the weather outside in this god forsaken Danish winter city-outpost actually has a beautiful natural core that is loaded with umami and tastes I once knew individually, but never in a Nordic context.” This is the beginning step in appreciating Noma where simplicity combines with a discipline and surprise to create something superlative. Producing an end result never before imagined, there is a brilliance in Noma’s formula to conquer inhospitable environs and then transform its spoils into something perfect without every abandoning the sense of place it is connected to.
Oh yes, the Noma wine list . I joked with head sommelier Mads Kleppe that he had the best job in wine service in the world. He travels around Europe’s top wine regions every two weeks. Everybody wants their wines on Noma’s list. He shared with me his recent visit to Clos Rougeard a couple weeks ago where he tasted through a series of cellar treasures from dry to sweet. He turned me onto some of Roland Velich’s Moric Blaufränkisch , one of the finest of these Austrian reds I have tasted yet. Mads introduced me to his friend Peter Malberg’s Grüner Veltliner Hochrain, a wine to turn Veltliner doubters into fans. And, when I told him I wanted to drink a bottle of Clos Rougeard Brézè, he returned smiling that while we did not talk vintage, he brought the 2007 to the table, one of my favorite Clos Rougeard vintages.
Mads favors Jura for many reasons that work with the food, and I selected the blend 2010 Côtes du Jura V.V Chardonnay-Savagnin Les Dolomies. You will not find any Bordeaux on this list, and Mads is working the Piedmonts and Northern Rhones out of an inventory inherited from his predecessor, and turning the list into one of the finest natural European wine lists in the world. These wines are built for Noma, and vice versa. The flavors of Noma are herbal, pure, subtle, clean, and natural, and the foods showcase the wines. Or is it the other way around, or does it even really matter? Kleppe says that some bad comes along with the good of his job as current guardian of wine at Noma, but I am having some trouble feeling too badly for him.
In a recent post, I shared the Noma dinner menu for February 20 . On February 22nd I returned thinking the only good thing about the conclusion of our dinner was knowing we would return in two days time for lunch. Noma is so much more than singularly dimensioned photos or words can really communicate, so there is good reason to just get up and go pay a visit. Noma is where discipline combines with artistic expression, how tension supports unshackled expression, and the place a casually relaxed aura can veil brilliance and perfection. Here is a one dimensional glimpse of some highlights from lunch:
Malt flatbread and juniper
No, not my son Alex, the branchy looking stuff inside the flower vase! Click on this image for a good close up
Moss and cep
Cheese cookie, rocket, and stems
Potato and duck livers
Dried carrot, sorrel and ash
Pickled and smoked quail eggs
Frozen cod liver and caramelized milk
Æbleskiver and muikku
Leek and cod roe
Fresh milk curd, blueberry, ants
Dried scallops, beech nuts, grains, watercress
Beets and plums
Lump fish roe and apple
Potatoes and bleak fish roe
Pike perch and stems, ramson onion capers
Wild duck, pear, kale, beech leaves
Quince and milk
Potato and plums (middle is mashed potato part of desert)
Take A Peek Inside The Noma Pop-Up In Tulum, Mexico
What happens when one of the most artful, acclaimed restaurants in the world plops their famed culinary experiences into the middle of a jungle? Bliss on earth, obviously. Noma, Chef Rene Redzepi’s Copenhagen-based gem, popped up for just a short time in Tulum, Mexico recently and, although it was controversially expensive, reservations at one of their exotic tables was one of the most coveted tickets of the year.
L.A. foodies and co-owners of one of our favorite beach-side dining rooms, Chez Tex, Jesse “Tex” Feldman and Hayley M. Feldman are fortunate to have been able to visit both locations – Copenhagen and Tulum – and we asked Hayley to share her food diary with us. Since we’re hooked on the Chez Tex’s artful Cali-French cuisine, we knew we could trust this savvy couple to tell us the kind of delicious details we were looking for…
At nine months pregnant, I arose on a cool, December morning. I strategically organized my computer, my iPad and my husband’s laptop like the holy trifecta before me prepared to secure a coveted dinner reservation. It had been nearly two years since our first experience at Noma in Copenhagen and now I was vying to dine again with one of the world’s greatest chefs. In California, it was all going down at 7 a.m.
There is something to be said about the journey to Denmark’s most famous restaurant. The sheer remoteness of it all the preposterousness of flying to a country simply for one fantastic meal. I remember descending into a dense fog in December of 2014. I had never even been to Scandinavia before. My husband and I dined there (along with 12 other strangers at a communal table) to celebrate my 30th birthday. It was the most enlightening dining experience of my life. In Copenhagen, our fellow diners were from Stockholm, Hong Kong, and New York. I remember feeling cheated to discover that two of the guests were also from Los Angeles. The point being, that a large part of the Noma appeal, is traveling a great distance to experience something wonderful.
This time, the setting was different. A seven-week pop-up in the jungle of Tulum would cater to approximately 7,000 guests from around the world.
THE FOOD: Noma Tulum may be the most Instagrammed food in recent years. Hoping to preserve the element of surprise, I avoided photos like the plague. Once it was my turn to dine, I snapped every last dish in all shades of light. The meal in Tulum opened your palate with each turn of the plate. Heat played an omnipresent role throughout (the starkest contrast from Copenhagen). Glorious, strange fruits and flowers adorned nearly every plate. Similar to Copenhagen (and true to Mr. Redzepi’s calling card), you were expected to eat bugs. The ants in Copenhagen topped a bit of beef and exploded with a citrus flavor in your mouth. The ant eggs (“Mexican Caviar”) on a tostada in Mexico were reminiscent of something more earthen and nutty.
THE DESIGN: The environment was just as relevant as the food, in both restaurants. There was no forgetting that you were in the jungle, in Tulum. Sand covered the floors, because, you’re outside. Tropical trees shrouded you from the vantage point of other guests. Citronella candles capped each table so that you weren’t eaten alive by mosquitos. By the end of the meal, you certainly felt like kicking your shoes off. Although both restaurants were “informally fancy.” Copenhagen felt chic and official. Housed in an industrial building by the water elegant, moody colors were disrupted with the texture of lambskin throws. In Tulum, it felt like we were joining the Noma crew on vacation and in some ways, we probably were.
THE EXPERIENCE: When I checked in at Noma Tulum, an Australian man named James greeted me. He remembered me from Copenhagen, two years prior. This is the sort of attention to detail that Noma is adept at creating, wherever they roam.
Overall, comparing the two is like drawing similarities between two siblings. They may have the same parents, but their underpinning makes them unique. Mr. Redzepi and the Noma team have respected the individuality of Tulum and Copenhagen, while finding inspiration to share with us all in return.
NOMA 2.0: dining at one of "the best restaurants in the world" is for the unafraid
René Redzepi is one of the most iconic chefs in the world today. His spin on the New Nordic cuisine inspired myriad culinary creatives globally to forage for ingredients and experiment beyond the molecular chemistry established by El Bulli. At Noma 2.o Redzepi and his international team liberally continue the evolution into even wilder directions. More conservative diners beware, you are on the soil of the liberal Christiania island of Copenhagen!
Unafraid of challenging diners’ perception of taste
The food at Noma is like contemporary art – an accent on concepts and raising the emotional surprise rules over the pure gustative joy from the dishes. Some plates taste good and are quite balanced, others’ hardly justify the time that goes into their development at Noma’s famous test kitchen. Without the generous local sponsors (Claus Mayer has fathered the booming restaurant scene in Denmark) such mission would likely bankrupt most restaurants before they could charm the adventurous strain of the global foodie audience.
Next to the now popular culinary exchanges and paid for challenges like Cook it Raw, the success of the original Noma after its closure let off the intrepid chef with his trusted team to travel, taste and open pop-ups in Japan, Australia and Mexico. Their East-South-West culinary heritage nagged Redzepi’s mind, so their traditional techniques infiltrated the initial Nordic style that he was known for. The result is more controversy and extremes, well beyond the typical sourness and tartness of Northern food. René Redzepi is risking it all as a co-owner. Is it as good as before? The chef himself asked this question in an interview released prior to the reopening. Our table of four dining at Noma recently hoped so.
The challenge is to understand its creative, yet at times off-putting aspects. Merging the boundaries of cultural distinctions in taste in the highly globalised world is nothing new, but this summer Noma has turned too many ingredients and techniques into either boring or rather unappetising creations.
In the multicultural kitchen some 60 cooks synchronise about 17 + plates served to the 40 heads seated inside. No bread, unless it’s a part of the recipe or suits the current menu, the extremely capable and accommodating manager explained.
The unostentatious complexity of the dishes was revealed to me through the Noma Recipes book. Despite the challenge of cooking it all on my own, the food tasted much better than what we ate at Noma 2.0. We expected a better balanced and more delicious meal than what was served to us. But, then a globally-seasoned foodie wrote me – Noma 2.0 is not Noma. The hardest part was tracing the ingredients, some foraged, others I bought in Copenhagen. For those plates I could not assemble in my Mediterranean kitchen, I traveled to Copenhagen.
The natural setting of Noma 2.o
The new space is marvellous. Like the Blue Hill at Stone Barns upstate New York, you enter a natural space built from wood and glass. The design was headlined by Denmark’s architect Bjarke Ingels, whose concept of a cluster of buildings like at a working farm in the Faroe Islands with each of the seven structures having its specific purpose, appealed to the vision of René Redzepi. He wants you to feel the seasons outside (XL glass windows and open space kitchen). Plants crawl the scant walls inside. With his sous-chef, reportedly, René Redzepi meditates over the menu inside his barrel-shaped sauna set up in the restaurant garden.
The new location of Noma at the back waterside of Christiania must be experienced under the clear sky. The interior was projected by another local architect capturing Redzepi on Instagram David Thulstrup. The service kitchen with sleek oak islands welcomes you into the dining house where everything mingles like bees in a hive. An open brick barbecue was inspired by Noma’s pop up in Tulum, Mexico.
There is a bicycle parking, so we pedalled in. Copenhagen is casual, so wearing comfortable shoes to Noma is fine. An aperitif is served in the greenhouse. We were given an ok non-alcoholic brew, much less interesting that the water kefir we were treated to at Kadeau a few nights earlier. The surrounding biodiversity fascinates, but looking carefully into the glass containers filled with molded stuff (edible?), preserved sea cucumbers and animal organs, the Danish fairy tale meets the harsh reality of food, trial and error. Only the hanging dried fish felt more traditional and thus normal to us.
As an open-minded and well-travelled foodie, I was more ready for the experience than my yumminess seeking husband and our friends. Still, I was not thrilled with most of the food. Although our pregnant American beverage expert friend (going for the non-alcoholic pairing this time) and her wine-savvy Alpine fiancee (worked at The Blue Hill at Stone Barns) both dined at many highly regarded gastronomic restaurants with us previously (Mirazur-terribly overrated I dined there three times Eleven Madison Park Alain Ducasse in Monaco), the menu at Noma lifted their brows and puckered their lips as I have never seen them before. Words of satisfaction were rare.
What’s exceptional is the service at Noma – every table has a dedicated assistant, while each dish is being served by a different, often creatively tattooed person, and the kitchen is staffed with more cooks than diners. René Redzepi was not present, at least he did not appear in the dining room, but that does not excuse the food.
Seasons at Noma
Noma has the privilege to source the best ingredients Denmark and its Nordic neighbours offer. The chef’s reputation aroused pride in the previously gastronomically stale region.
There are three seasons in each annual cycle at Noma. Seafood in late winter and spring (sea cucumbers and other for Americans and central Europeans challenging ocean creatures did not appealed to our palates even at the best Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the world). Worse even is the fall merging into a crusty winter season, when game, meat and forest wilderness come to the plates at Noma. I respect seasonality and I am quite open to experiment, trying some culturally-challenging foods like insects, fish sperm and organs, but Noma moves the boundaries further. From those well-trod foodies, who tested all the three seasons during the first year of Noma’s rebirth, I got a nod to the vegetable menu in a persuasive unison.
We entrusted our bellies to the summer vegetable season. A great time to savour the Nordic bliss of the otherwise sun-deprived Danes. Booking my July table on the first day the summer season reservations were available.
Starting with edible taxidermy, the Flowers marinated with pollen served on a thin crisp shaped like a butterfly were a lovely summer opener.
Followed a simple serving of Barbecued pepper. The green stuffed pepper was not spicy, good, but nothing outstanding.
Candied Beets raviolo with liquorice and herbs was chewy like a fruit leather, a healthy snack, but not memorable.
Then came the dish of the evening. The Chilled Onion Bouillon with roasted beech nuts and crème frâiche was superb. Balanced, interesting, and offering a play of diverse textures – crunchy nuts, jellied bouillon, cream. You did not eat the raw onion bulb in which it was served, but finally, we were satisfied.
A period of highly challenging plates interrupted our brief moment of joy. Eating mold beyond cheese is rarely welcome in Western culture. Noma even employs a fermentation expert in moulded edibles. Molded plant-based products are now available in European health stores in the form of a cashew ‘camembert’ fluffed up with a furry coat of mold. I even bought a locally made vegan ‘camembert’ in Copenhagen just to check if the locals’ threshold was a bar or two higher than mine. It was good.
But, the molded Green Asparagus at Noma was horrendous. I couldn’t finish the second piece. Ordering pizza after the three hours-lasting meal was now on our follow up program. The spiky vegetable may had been preserved in the mold, but I would love to hear from those who loved the taste. None of us did, only the green pumpkin sauce with it was good enough to eat.
Mold pancake with Australian truffle reminiscing on Noma’s pop up on the other side of the world added a twist on tacos. The molded barley shaped like a taco was stuffed with cream cheese. I quite liked this.
The Mold pie sounded even more hazardous than the previous ‘infected’ plates. For some at our table it was unpalatable, or was it just the thought of it? The entire egg yolk was moulded and so were the seeds circling around it like sun rays. Underneath, seaweed bedded the pie crust. My husband was off to the moon. Needless to add, our pregnant member at the table, did not touch the plate. We informed the service at the beginning of our meal about her pregnancy, but no adjustments were made. At Noma, even the vegetable menu is not safe for everyone!
A relief came with the next plate. Berry soup with watermelon balls and herbs was the ultimate expression of summer. Raspberries and blackberries were refreshing. Nice, but can hardly reach to three Michelin star perfection, Noma has two.
A delicate flaky Flatbread with medium rare cooked vegetables referenced to a steak and would perhaps satisfy a vegetarian. Baby beets, courgettes, turnips, green beans with crisps of fried shiso leaves. As a vegivore, I liked this fragile snack.
Deep fried zucchini flowers were added off the menu, but needn’t be, so boring when compared to what I eat in the Mediterranean. Flatly laid in their oily coating on a stack of hay, they tasted literally as they looked like – flat and oily.
Celeriac cannelloni were too peppery and that is all I could taste. A faint memento to the past summer’s hit celeriac shawarma (referring to the Middle-Eastern cooking style rather than the typical slow roasted meat sliced from its conic cut on a spit).
White asparagus with egg yolk sauce in a nasturtium leaf wrap, seasoned with seaweed, flowers and the clover-like greens was good. Again, not particularly memorable.
Quail egg in salted ramson leaves was so boring that I felt what a waste! Our table started to look at our watches wondering if any good pizza place would still deliver to our hotel.
Next, about three or four bites of remedy arrived. Wild mushrooms barbecued with pine were excellent, succulent in their intense marinade. Pinched on a blackberry branch skewer for au nature look.
The main course was a Vegetable ragout. Worse than most great vegetarian restaurants would pull out. Even the Australian truffles did not lift the mixed plate enough to make for a memorable dish. The tastiest, we agreed, was the slice of smoked potato.
A Woodruff ice cream and birch kombucha jelly announced the sweet finale of the meal.
The last serving of the night was a duet of simplicity and a shock. The dessert of Crispy bees cooked with chocolate even had a slicing knife attached. Generally, insects have become trendy recently, even supermarkets followed hipster stores selling pricy snacks with dehydrated bugs. Chef Redzepi was enchanted by his pop up in Mexico (where insects are traditionally eaten in some regions), so he got a bunch of crispy bees onto a slab of white ‘chocolate’. Like nuts, the bite into the silenced buzzers added some crunch, a healthy protein, but not much flavour, the fresh floral petals took all the taste credit. Let the bees pollinate and make honey. It is not sustainable to promote eating bees, I think.
A plate of summer berries came along. When you dine at the best restaurant in the country, let alone one of the best restaurants in the world [as elected by some controversial juries], you expect that the berries would be better than what you got at the local market (I did), but they were not. The raspberries were tart, lacking the ripeness of their succulent sell-out at the market in Copenhagen, the strawberries also did not reach the depth of the organic basket I got at a random street stand in the city, and the gooseberries were unlike my grandmother’s wholesome bombs of concentrated juiciness.
Natural wine meets the challenge in intriguing non-alcoholic beverage pairing at Noma
For beverages there are two pairings – non-alcoholic or ‘natural’ wines.
There are way too many disappointing ‘natural’ wines – faulty, mousy, vinegary, and overall unpredictable. The wine list at Noma 2.0 is changed each season to rotate the organic, biodynamic and seriously ‘raw-style’ bottles. We did it all. Our pregnant lady went for the interesting and delicious non-alcoholic drinks (Black apple & Cherry Cloudberry & Pollen Quince & Elderflower Kiwi & Coriander …). The rest of us did the wine pairing – all whites for the summer menu, so we ordered two extra red bottles for the table. A reliable Pira Barolo from Roagna (2012) and a lighter Contadino by the popular Sicilian volcanic soil winemaker Franc Cornelissen. While, all four of us have a highly above average knowledge of wine, the wine list looked quite unfamiliar. Exciting for the adventurous wine connoisseurs, unsettling for professionals. “My experience with natural wine is that you just don’t know what a wine will taste like until you open it. I don’t like the unpredictability.“, wrote Lenka Sedlackova, a Master of Wine. High volatile acidity, who likes the smell of a nail varnish?
After all, what if not unsettling is the entire gastronomic experience at Noma? As a former wine writer, next to a serious wine collector, a former beverage director at COSME and an f&b manager working with perhaps the best wine cellar in the Alps, the wine program at Noma was bellow impressive. I’m a huge fan of sustainable wine making, and there are winemakers who mastered the excellence of low intervention wines (Domaine Milan, DRC, Foradori, Soula, Chateau Latour, Zindt-Humbrecht), but about half of the wines in the pairing were not very enjoyable if not flawed (the cloudy rosè by Christian Tschida was simply undrinkable vinegarish mess). My sister, an experienced sommelier at the best wine bar in Czechia, also finds the wines from this Austrian natural wine producer often flawed. There were two beauties poured on the night though – a balanced and deeply nuanced orange Cuvèe Alexandria by Domaine Matassa, Côtes Catalanes. Without any added sulphites, the high acidity mingled with the depth of the on the skins longer macerated wine. Also, the 3 Savagnins Floraux Jura L’Hopital 2016 by Peggy & Jean-Paul Buronfosse confirmed that the high acid/low pH varieties or regions are safe in the natural wine world.
Champagne Goustan Valerie Frison Blanc de Noirs, Aube, was good, but serving it late into the dinner promised a hangover the day after. The Grains de Folie naturally sparkling Chenin Blanc by Bruno Rochard was not bad either. I suspect that some bottles were chosen purely for the name though. Like “Love and Pif” by Yann Durieux – Hautes Côtes de Nuits, France. Highly acidic, very racy this aperitif Aligote fits only if your gut is happy with the powerful wash in of acidity. Much of Nordic food is already very acidic so for anyone not used to this or sensitive might suffer from a digestive discomfort.
Millennial concepts versus balanced, sophisticated taste of tradition
The meal has affirmed my suspicion that we have intellectualised and medialized dining to the point that taste and consistency are way less relevant than a vibrant social media presence, a unique story to tell on the camera (blame Netflix) and by simply cooking different. I ask you – what do you want from a meal? Your answer may challenge the so-called ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ rating quite radically. I do not say that some restaurants on the list (such as Etxebarri) do not deliver flavour, excellent service and reliable consistency, but most of the influential ones may profoundly change what we will be served when dining out at gastronomic restaurants. My three Michelin meal a few days later at Alain Ducasse in Monaco alerted me – the spaghetti on the menu now include pine needles! The Mediterranean cuisine that the restaurant is renowned for turned to Northern inspiration, thanks to that disputed World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Perhaps Michelin is not as relevant anymore, but superficial, pictures and videos oriented social media (whose influence and real number of followers are still murky), while chefs have to experiment on diners’ level of palatability in order to score high elsewhere.
I must say: Thank you Noma, for bringing me over to Denmark, for the ingredients I bought and sampled at other restaurants (Kadeau, Baest, Mother – yes pizza, …), including your sister restaurant 108, were impeccable. Danish cheese, seaweed and berries rank amongst the tastiest I have had to date. Lars Ulrich put it diplomatically, writing in the foreword to Noma Recipes “René belongs to a very small group of unique creators. People who have turned their particular niches completely upside-down. Reinvented and redefined them. The Unafraid”. I agree. I am unafraid too, writing an honest review about my and my table’s experience at Noma 2.o this summer. Unlike the silenced comments on their social media channels, and zero influence from marketing manipulations, I am free to publish a fair, true, carefully balanced, yet still personal (for, as I wrote, taste is personal) criticism. I have dined at the world’s echelon of best restaurants by diverse measures. Still, food is about nourishment and good taste, and I do not need chefs being compared to Picasso, Beethoven or Steve Jobs, for I did not have to eat their creativity.
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René Redzepi on Noma’s last supper – and what comes next
O n the night in 2009 when his restaurant reached No 3 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, René Redzepi’s thoughts turned to aviation. “It was a great moment,” he recalls. “But it also felt like that moment when you’re on a plane after it takes off, and you’re at 10,000 feet, and you’re wondering, is this where we level off? Or are we going to start climbing again?”
As it turned out, the climb for Noma had hardly begun: in the coming years, the restaurant would top the list four times, and Redzepi would launch several projects that would, in important ways, change the very nature of being a chef. But seven years, three international pop-ups, and one momentous decision later, the question remains as relevant to him as ever. René Redzepi is still wondering about the climb.
In February, Noma will serve its last meal. A little over a month later, the restaurant’s entire staff will move to the Mexican resort town of Tulum to open an outdoor restaurant – temporarily – deep in the jungle. For seven weeks they will serve Noma’s interpretation of tacos and mole to the hundreds of patrons who snatched up every ticket within a day of them going on sale. Then, in June, they will return to Copenhagen, and if all goes as planned, they will open a new, cutting-edge restaurant called Noma.
It would be easy to mistake as raw ambition the impulses that lead Redzepi to these kind of outsized exercises, much as it is easy to mistake the $600 a head (before tax and tip) tab for dinner at the Mexico pop-up as greed. But to a degree remarkable among those with access to such opportunities, he is not driven by a desire for fame or money. It is more like restlessness – a deep, nearly primal desire to keep moving forward, evolving, improving. It’s as if he is anaphylactically allergic to stasis.
On a rare sunny November morning in Copenhagen, Redzepi is, however, momentarily seated. He is drinking tea at 108, the new Noma-owned restaurant run by chef Kristian Baumann. Earlier in the week, he had learned that the city had finally granted all the building permits for the new Noma – so long as they agreed to shift the location by two metres. He had also learned that a potential sponsor for the Mexico pop-up was having second thoughts, which meant the restaurant was going to have to fund the endeavour, including the cost of flying and housing its staff, by itself.
“It’s so stressful,” Redzepi admits. “I want to abort once a month. But then I remember: we can’t. We’re six months pregnant.”
He means that metaphorically: the thing he will be giving birth to is not a child (though he would like to add another to the three he and his wife Nadine have) but a reinvented restaurant. And he has faced intense pressure in the past, and managed to harness his restlessness like some kind of renewable energy in order to power through it. But though the stakes were high before, they were nothing like this. If the comparison to giving birth makes sense, it’s because this time, Noma’s reinvention is about legacy.
Legacy is an unlikely thing for a 39-year-old to be thinking about. But you could say that Redzepi has been at it his entire career, ever since culinary entrepreneur Claus Meyer went looking for a chef to head his new restaurant. At the time, fine dining in Denmark meant French cuisine, but Meyer’s vision was to show Danes that a restaurant could cook deliciously with ingredients from their own backyard. He found the 23-year-old Redzepi, recently graduated from apprenticeships at the French Laundry in California and elBulli in Spain, who signed on for what was supposed to be a simple restaurant, without Michelin-level ambition. Redzepi’s recollection of opening night reveals its modest aims. “I wasn’t nervous,” he says, “because I didn’t think we were doing anything new. We were just opening a restaurant.”
A tour of the region taught him about its possibilities. Redzepi learned he could substitute vinegar for citrus, seaweed for leafy greens. Soon it became an ambition, this quest for new ingredients and flavours. When a Swedish forager in wellies showed up at his kitchen with a sack of beach herbs, Redzepi saw the runway before him.
Instead of simply bringing in Nordic ingredients for French ones, he began rethinking what an ingredient was. He and his brigade learned to forage, bringing back wild plants and, eventually, insects that augmented the arsenal of flavours available to a kitchen devoted like none before it to understanding its terroir. Gradually, the kitchen also turned to older techniques like smoking, pickling and fermenting that were indigenous to the region.
The immediate response was sceptical, to put it mildly. Locally, Noma was either dismissed or mocked (as Redzepi still loves to recount, they were accused of doing unprintable things to seals). But it made them see themselves as scrappy underdogs. When Noma began to receive positive attention abroad, they weren’t sure they could trust it, and kept working.
Their reputation grew. The style of cooking Noma was developing – a naturalistic expression of time and place that became known as “new Nordic” – seemed the antithesis of the Spanish pyrotechnics that then dominated the gastronomic scene. “Before that, the world’s most notable restaurants all began with El and Le and La,” recalls Kate Krader, food and drinks editor of Bloomberg Pursuits. “Noma almost singlehandedly took the spotlight and shone it on northern Europe. It’s not that Noma discovered nature – Ferran and Albert [Adrià] had highlighted it at elBulli – but René sort of emerged from the Nordic woods with a clutch of mushrooms and a duck-hunting knife and put Copenhagen and Nordic cooking on the map.”
As Noma picked up accolades (two Michelin stars in 2008 the top slot on the World’s 50 Best list a couple of years later), its success inspired others in the region to pay attention to their landscape. Maintaining to varying degrees the geographic limitations that Redzepi had imposed on himself, restaurants like Frantzén/Lindeberg in Stockholm, Dill in Reykjavik and Maaemo in Oslo also became identified with the Nordic trend. “They put the spotlight on the fact that there could be great restaurants in a region that was previously uncharted, gastronomically speaking. And that led to more,” says Magnus Nilsson, chef of the highly acclaimed Fäviken in northern Sweden. “I can’t definitely say that I wouldn’t have opened Fäviken without Noma, but it would have been harder. I wouldn’t have made the decision when and how I did.”
Noma’s kitchen became a magnet for young chefs from around the world eager to learn the new style. Isaac McHale, head chef of the Clove Club, can still tick off the impressive names in the kitchen when he did his apprenticeship at Noma in 2007: Christian Puglisi, Torsten Vildgaard, Daniel Burns, Ben Greeno, Jon Tam, Sam Miller, Brad McDonald. “The team when I was there was like the Harlem Globetrotters,” McHale recalls. “They’ve all gone on to do great things.”
Noma’s apple of the season with oxalis, paste of fermented black apple and elderflower oil. Photograph: Ty Stange/The Observer
“New Nordic” even moved outside the restaurant. It wasn’t long after Noma began using Icelandic cultured milk in its kitchen, for example, that skyr began showing up in Danish supermarkets. These days, sea buckthorn can be found in everything from ice-cream to shampoo.
In Copenhagen especially, the effect was profound. The city’s restaurant scene expanded as Noma alumni graduated, opening ambitious places including Puglisi’s Relae and Matt Orlando’s Amass, quirky ones – Victor Wagman and Sam Nutter’s offal-friendly Bror, and casual spots such as Rosio Sanchez’s taco stand Hija de Sanchez. Though a mere decade earlier the city was seen as a culinary Siberia, Copenhagen became a foodie destination nearly as alluring as Barcelona or Paris. “That’s something I’m really proud of,” Redzepi says. “That we created a community.”
He was creating more than that. A New York Times op-ed here, an invitation to Davos there and, slowly, Redzepi began – like other well-known chefs in our food-obsessed age – to wield greater public influence. He was still in the kitchen, overseeing service and approving the recipes that flowed from Noma’s test kitchen and fermentation lab. And he remained sceptical of fame: “I say to my staff that it’s a loan, and one day you have to give it back.” But he also began speaking publicly about his desire to leave the profession better than he found it.
In 2011, he and his team launched Mad [Danish for food], a symposium that brought chefs together to talk about how they might make their industry and, not incidentally, the world better places. Every aspect of the conference, down to the soundboard, was run by Noma staff, and their palpable commitment was as important to the symposium’s success as it was at the restaurant. “Every single time I was at Noma I felt it,” says Nilsson. “There was a sense of momentum, the energy of everyone together, going forward.”
Until there wasn’t. Four years after the aeroplane metaphor came to Redzepi, he faced the real possibility of levelling off, or worse, of falling – 2013 was Noma’s annus horribilis. In February, norovirus sickened 63 Noma diners and set off spasms of media schadenfreude around the globe. In April, the restaurant fell to second place on the World’s 50 Best list. It had only recently recovered from a bout with near-bankruptcy, and Redzepi’s relationship with Meyer, which had been difficult for some time, was becoming untenable. “That’s the fear,” he says. “That you’re going to lose it all.”
So much of Redzepi’s drive is born of it: the fear that – whether abruptly in the form of a terrible review, or agonisingly, as the food world’s attention turns to the next big thing – it could all disappear. It is there, palpable, when he chews out a stagiaire for being anything less than perfect, and there too when he squirms over a blogger’s negative comment. In 2013, the fear almost, in his mind, became reality. So he did the only thing he could do: he unleashed his restlessness.
Here's a Sneak Peak Inside the New Noma
About a month ago, we reported on a unique opportunity to attend opening night at the New Noma in Copenhagen on February 15. In a partnership between Chef Rene Redzepi’s “global food community” nonprofit MAD and the charity fundraising platform Omaze, an ongoing sweepstakes is being held with the winners scoring a table for two during that highly-anticipated first dinner service as well as airfare, accommodations and a behind the scenes tour of the facility the day after your meal. It’s being billed as the last chance to attend this historic event, which was otherwise all booked up practically as soon as reservation became available.
But here’s the thing: Though it’s impossible to secure a seat at New Noma’s opening night any other way, you’re also extremely unlikely to win the sweepstakes. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t enter: Every single entry has a chance at winning, and all the money goes to a good cause. Still, Omaze’s site doesn’t specifically say how many entries have been received so far, however, some high profile campaign perks have already sold out: things like signed aprons, which require 50,000 entries, a half-day in the fermentation lab, which requires 100,000 entries, and the niel Barber Experience,” which requires 250,000 entries. The moral: It would seem likely that millions of entries have already been received.
But even though your chances of getting to New Noma are still extremely slim, don’t fear: Omaze just did you a huge solid. To continue to promote the sweepstakes, which is open for 20 more days, the charity company has collaborated with Rene Redzepi to create a 90-second behind-the-scenes video – one of our first chances to see inside the mystery that is Noma 2.0. You get a look at the kitchen, a very quick peek at the fermentation lab, and a preview of many of the wild ingredients Redzepi already has in mind for opening day.
“There might be even one of these on the menu,” Redzepi says, pulling a strange slimy thing from a pot. “This is a sea cucumber. It’s been boiled. And it’s not ready yet.” He then gives the most charming laugh you’ll ever hear before quipping, “It’s gonna be delicious.”