We discuss Redzepi's move back to Denmark and opening Noma
In our series "At the Chef's Table," we take a look at the careers of some of the greatest chefs in the business. In this month’s installment we are profiling René Redzepi, of the internationally acclaimed Noma in Copenhagen. The chef, whose restaurant is currently ranked number two on San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants list, sat down with us recently at his restaurant in Denmark.
In part four of our series we discuss why Redezepi came back to Denmark and how he opened Noma. He admits that he originally didn't want to return to Copenhagen, but came back for a girlfriend. But once he did he took a job as a sous chef for two years, until he started the receive numerous offers to open his own place. He admits that Noma came to be because he fell in love with the space: "It just made total sense... To be totally honest about things it was basically the place, walking these spaces seeing the floors, the beams, the history," he says.
The restaurant took time to evolve — both the space and the concept. As Redzepi notes, "With time it sort of became a search for a flavor — what is this flavor?"
For more from Redzepi, watch the video above! And be sure to tune in next Monday for the final part.
Big News: René Redzepi&rsquos Fantastic Wild Food World
When René Redzepi says he&rsquos got some exciting initiatives, we listen.
r Friends,” begins the announcement from René Redzepi and his nonprofit MAD organization. “We’ve been rather quiet over the past 12 months. Not that we’ve been sitting idle, on the contrary, we’ve been fast at work on some exciting new initiatives.”
When René Redzepi says he’s got some exciting initiatives, I am listening. After all, he’s the most influential chef in the world.
He’s also the world’s most influential forager. Which brings us to his brilliant new concept, Wild Food www.vildmad.dk (the Danish name, VILD MAD, is wonderful). It takes people right into the chef’s foraging universe. The entire program is free: All you need is internet access.
Wild Food has three components: Parts one and two are Denmark-focused and/or for anyone lucky enough to be fluent in Danish. The first part is a program for Danish school kids, that teaches them to explore the local landscape, tasting all the cool edible things around them. "Why isn&apost this something kids learn about in school, at the same time that they are taught mathematics and grammar?” asks Redzepi. “I would love to see the next generations have the tools and knowhow to read the landscape, find delicious, nutritious food and forage it sustainably."
The second part is a Wild Food School for Danes. Rangers will lead groups on a Redzepi-inspired tour, finding roots that taste like cinnamon, tracking down wild garlic and id-ing edible mushrooms. Added benefit: Participants will get Redzepi’s best cooking tips.
And then there’s Part Three, for those of us not in Denmark. Wild Food is creating a deep database for plants and wild foods, with all kinds of pictures and intel. There’s an ibility map’ and more of Redzepi’s tips for sustainability and food. “It&aposs crucial for all of us to learn about the edible landscape,” says Redzepi. “It gives us a unique understanding of how we&aposre a part of a larger ecosystem I believe we&aposre a step closer to this when we consume our landscape.” #vildmad .
René Redzepi Unveils App That Will Teach You About Wild Food
The lauded chef behind Denmark’s Noma restaurant (and the recent Noma Mexico), René Redzepi unveiled a new app called Vild Mad at today&aposs World&aposs 50 Best Talks, a conference that also marked the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ 15th anniversary.
Vild Mad, which means "wild food" in Danish, is part of a three-part initiative from chef&aposs non-profit MAD (taken from the Danish word for food), to teach people how to forage for their own wild food, according to a report from Eater.
nish kids should learn to eat wild food, so that they get a better understanding and appreciation of the nature around them. This is the goal of Rene Redzepi and his non-profit organization MAD, which is launching its project VILD MAD today at a conference in Barcelona,” a statement about the app read.
Apparently, the app guides users through different landscapes, teaching them which foods are edible during different seasons, inviting them to “touch, to smell, to taste, to pick, to cook,” Redzepi said during his talk.
He’s been working on the app for four years, which MAD, "a nonprofit organization that brings together a global cooking community with a social conscience, a sense of curiosity, and an appetite for change," hopes will become a “tool for decoding the landscape and all its culinary potential."
Redzepi also developed a curriculum about wild food for Danish children, in his effort to get the whole world to start picking their own produce straight from the Earth as early as possible. For now, those lessons are only available in Denmark, but the app is available for download from iTunes in both English and Danish right now.
Lately, the Danish chef has become more philanthropically minded: He recently donated all the profits from his Noma pop-up in Tulum, Mexico to a charity called Maya Mundo Foundation, which works toward, “the sustainable social and economic development of Mayan communities in the Yucatan Peninsula.”
With the addition of this app to his impressive legacy, Redzepi is well on his way to becoming much more than just a chef he’s becoming a socially conscious entrepreneur.
René Redzepi: A Work in Progress René Redzepi
How do you achieve greater creativity at the world’s best restaurant?
René Redzepi committed to writing a journal for an entire year to reflect on this question and the result is A Work in Progress: Notes on Food, Cooking and Creativity.
Three books in one, a journal, recipe book and flick book, A Work in Progress recounts the day-to-day life at Noma – from the trials of developing new dishes to the successes that come with winning the 50 Best Restaurant award. While the journal is the book’s heart, it is supported by the recipe book containing 100 brand new recipes and the flick book of 200 candid images which provide a stunning, and often humorous, insight into the inner workings of the restaurant and it’s talented team of chefs.
Reflective, insightful and compelling, René interweaves observations on creativity, collaboration and ambition making A Work in Progress of interest to food lovers and general readers alike. Specifications:
- Format: Hardback & Paperback
- Size: 270 x 220 mm (10 5/8 x 8 5/8 in)
- Pages: 648 pp
- Illustrations: 300 illustrations
- ISBN: 9780714866918
"These three books perfectly capture Rene Redzepi's gastronomic vision: playful and fiercely imaginative, deeply rooted in season and place, and committed to pure, real ingredients."—Alice Waters
"Rene Redzepi is, without a doubt, the most influential, provocative, and important chef in the world. This book chronicles a year in the life of a chef, a creative process - and a restaurant considered by many to be the best."—Anthony Bourdain
"Redzepi has given us a book - or really, three books - that take us not only into the field. but also into the wildest place of all: his mind. A striking, thought-provoking, and imminently pleasurable read."—Daniel Barber
"F**k me, he's a good chef!"—Fergus Henderson
"This is a brilliant, honest, and ultimately exhilarating insight into one of the most important culinary minds in the world."—Daniel Patterson
"The perfect package. Gorgeous recipes, candid snapshots, and a year's worth of journal entries are what you get in Rene Redzepi's latest. But that's not our favorite thing about the Noma chef's three-volume set. The package design - three monochromatic and straight-up minimalist covers, all held together by a color-coordinated rubber band - makes this title (and all of its parts) a must for any collection."— Bon Appetit
"There's no doubting [Redzepi's] genius. A profound insight into how he conceives his dishes. The [recipe] selection here contains some of Noma’s key naturalistic techniques and will therefore be of interest to many chefs cooking at a high level. A rare glimpse into one of the world's most influential kitchens."—Restaurant
". A raw, fascinating and innovative exploration of an elite chef's obsessive life. But more than that, it is a book about creativity."—The San Francisco Chronicle
". [A Work in Progress] forms an intimate look at what Redzepi does, how he does it, and what it means to do it. What fun to delve into this landscape of Nordic ingredients and ideas. You just might find yourself dreaming about eating hay and ants for dinner and spruce parfait for dessert."—Food & Wine
"Unique and insightful, this is one collection true food lovers will delight in."—Publishers Weekly
". The best portrait yet of the intellectual and emotional challenges of delivering one of the most creative menus in the business."—The Economist
"A food nerd's dream."—Wine Enthusiast
"[A Work in Progress] gets our pick for the best cookbook of the year because it's human, intimate and inspiring."—Tasting Table
Rene Redzepi of Noma shops like a cook, thinks like a chef on D.C. stop
Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma cooks at CulinAerie at the invitation of The Washington Post. His food is modernist, yet simple. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
As we walk from Penn Quarter to the Ripley Center on the National Mall, where he’s scheduled to speak, Rene Redzepi makes a small confession: He’s cold. He says this despite wearing a thermal coat that girdles his midsection like puff pastry around a cocktail frank and despite being 4,000 miles from Noma, his celebrated restaurant in Copenhagen, where winter sends locals into hibernation.
The small posse that keeps pace with Redzepi — including Lars Williams, head of research and development for Noma — finds the chef’s chills slightly amusing. How many Danes would actually admit to being cold in a city south of the Mason-Dixon line? Undaunted, Redzepi presses on. He has a theory about cold weather: He says the sub-freezing air in Denmark is drier the weather doesn’t seem to settle in your bones like the wet arctic winds blasting through Washington on this unseasonably cold evening in November.
“Winter’s really coming, yeah?” Redzepi says to no one in particular, his words ripe with imagery. “Winter’s just gnawing on your shoulder, telling you, ‘I’m here!’ ”
In just a few words about the weather, Redzepi, 35, exhibits almost everything I like about his recently released collection, “Rene Redzepi: A Work in Progress”: a gut-bucket honesty an outer fragility that conceals a rock-solid intellect and an unwavering commitment to all things Danish, even the lousy, largely sunless winters.
“A Work in Progress” is a trio of books — cookbook, journal and photo collection — that range from pocketbook-size to coffee table-esque. The three volumes are held together with a thick, two-strap yellow band it may be the first bra-like contraption ever employed in the history of culinary publishing, which surely must be a metaphor for the chef himself. Redzepi has stood out from the pack for years.
Noma, of course, has been a presence on the arbitrary-but-influential World’s 50 Best Restaurants list since 2006, capturing the top spot for three straight years (2010-2012) before dropping to No. 2 in this year’s survey. But such lists don’t get to the heart of Redzepi’s originality. In person, he has a calm, center-of-the-universe way of interacting with those around him. He doesn’t appear to be at war with the world, like some chefs are, trying to bend every element to his will. Rather, he exudes a kind of faith: in his instincts and in his ability to coax the best out of those things around him, whether cooks or ingredients.
Perhaps that was a hard-earned lesson. If you read his “A Work in Progress” journal, you’ll bump into entries in which Redzepi feels he has ignored his internal compass. After a long vacation in January 2011, the chef returns to Copenhagen and writes in his journal:
“One month in Mexico and I’d realized the truth — I was scared, scared of losing the precious worldwide attention we’d stumbled into. All of us were. We were too worried about what people expected of the so-called ‘world’s best restaurant,’ rather than focusing on what we expected of ourselves. We had stopped following our natural instincts and trusting that our memories are valuable enough to shape our daily lives at the restaurant.”
Out at the FreshFarm Market at Penn Quarter, Redzepi looks in his element as he shops at the request of the Food section, which asked him to cook a pair of dishes. In a sense, we wanted Redzepi to apply his famous foraging skills to an easier target: a farmers market rather than, say, Rock Creek Park, where he might compete with deer for local ingredients. It struck us as a reasonable request Redzepi’s cooking philosophy, after all, is broader than the “new Nordic” cuisine label that everyone hangs on him like a convention name tag. As Food & Wine noted last year, the chef finds inspiration in the entire natural world, including, presumably, the mid-Atlantic.
Interestingly, Redzepi thought our challenge would be an ideal time to introduce us to “classic Danish home cooking,” perhaps even the food his Danish mother taught him before he trained under Ferran Adrià at El Bulli in Spain or Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in California. Some of what he has purchased at the market, however, could be considered foreign objects in Denmark: The chef says he has never cooked with cilantro, chili peppers or eggplant.
Redzepi clearly has decided to venture outside his comfort zone but still remain close enough that he can see its borders. He has opted to limit his palette to vegetables and cheese only: Aside from the foreign items above, he has bought Brussels sprouts, onions, kale, feta and tomme cheese. It’s a grocery list that apparently wouldn’t look out of place in Redzepi’s home, where he often cooks vegetarian meals.
When I ask why he avoided buying meat, Redzepi stammers. “I wasn’t too . . . ,” Redzepi says, then trails off. “The meat stuff here . . . .” He searches for the right, perhaps most diplomatic, words.
“There just wasn’t that much meat,” offers Peter Tittiger, executive marketing manager for Phaidon Press, coming to the rescue.
“There wasn’t too much,” Redzepi repeats. “I didn’t explore it enough to really see if it really blew my mind.” Then the chef turns to survey the farmers market.
“How many stalls are there? 15?” he asks. “And 12 of them are about vegetables. So that’s a sign.”
“A sign they need more meat producers?” I suggest.
Redzepi allows himself a microscopic laugh. “Or,” he responds, clearly regaining his footing, “that you should cook vegetables!”
The next morning, Redzepi and Williams arrive at CulinAerie, the recreational cooking school on 14th Street NW, where they will transform those market ingredients into two improvised dishes. After a talk and book signing at the Smithsonian, the Noma chefs spent the previous evening at Minibar, where José Andrés’s team entertained the visitors with playful, modernist twists on dishes both familiar and foreign. Redzepi was impressed with Minibar’s coconut cuttlefish, a dish that toys with a diner’s expectations: At first glance, many mistake the coconut for the cuttlefish or vice versa.
Despite the trickery, Redzepi found the dish accessible. “Simple, but very clean,” he says.
Redzepi’s own approach to modernist cooking is, like the chef himself, more reserved, employing the tools of his trade to create dishes that, while dazzling to the eye, are not typically trying to entertain diners with campy cultural allusions or optical illusions. His “A Work in Progress” cookbook, although more approachable than the earlier “Noma” collection, features ingredients that look as if they have been barely altered from their natural state. That is Redzepi’s gift: His high-tech manipulations have an organic air about them.
On this morning, however, Redzepi is flying blind, working in CulinAerie’s classroom kitchen with no knowledge of what ingredients or equipment lie in the school’s pantry or closets. If he’s sweating, Redzepi isn’t showing it. He’s dressed casually in a navy blue shirt, untucked, over jeans his brown hair falls loose over his forehead and ears, while a full beard hugs his face: Nordic outerwear for the head. As he calmly peels the leaves off a dozen Brussels sprouts with a paring knife, Redzepi shares stories of his Muslim father, who lived in Macedonia when it was still part of Yugoslavia. Dad was the cook of the family, he says.
“He always did this tomato salad in summer. Everybody loved it, and my father would say, ‘But it’s nothing. It’s just tomatoes, salt, oil and vinegar.’ Then he’d let it stand on top of the oven for a day to marinate,” Redzepi remembers. “Today, it makes no sense to talk about it, because everybody makes” something like it.
Those Brussels sprouts in his hand are something of a personal dare. “Brussels sprouts were the one thing I truly and utterly hated as a child. I understood later on . . . that they were just cooked bad,” he says. “If they’re cooked right, they’re great.”
The funny thing is, Redzepi will barely cook the Brussels sprout leaves, which will ultimately garnish a shallow bowl of cilantro sauce topped with the sweet inner flesh of the eggplant. Redzepi gives the leaves a brief turn in a dry saute pan, just long enough to add a little char.
Charring turns out to be one of Redzepi’s favorite tricks. It’s not for the faint of heart. Williams, for instance, chars those eggplants until they look like bricks pulled from a three-alarm fire. The technique offers two benefits: It steams the flesh to a lush consistency and imparts a slight smokiness. It’s like baba ghanouj without the tahini, and it pairs wonderfully with the aromatic cilantro sauce, spiked lightly with mustard and with balsamic and cider vinegars.
Redzepi also chars the onions, but only after giving them a brief dip in barely boiling water. “The sweetness is more clean when you cook [onions] in water,” he says. The onion char provides a secondary benefit beyond its smoky flavor: It lends a striking visual to the finished dish. Redzepi meticulously disassembles the onions until each layer looks like a miniature cup, its “rim” outlined in char. When the individual cups are placed in the bottom of a shallow bowl, their black rims appear to float on the surface of a cheese sauce that Redzepi builds from smoked feta, tomme and water. The dish’s last touch are drops of intense kale oil, blended from leaves that are, once again, charred first.
Not once does Redzepi saute any ingredient in a pan with butter or oil. Nor does he season as he goes. “I like to season at the last minute, especially with vegetables,” he says. “Just a little.”
The only problem for Redzepi concerns what he was told were fresh cayenne peppers. They have none of the heat he expected. He decides to trash the chilies, robbing his eggplant and cilantro dish of the fiery element he desired. Perhaps it’s just as well. I recall the encounter we had the day before at the market when I asked a vendor if she had super-hot peppers.
“No, no, no, no!” Redzepi protested.
“No,” the chef said, “I’m from boring, gray Scandinavia.”
Sure, the same boring, gray Scandinavia that produced a chef who has just improvised two kaleidoscopically colorful dishes, one coaxed from ingredients apparently alien to him. As modern as these plates look, they may actually incorporate an element of classic Danish home cooking. You could argue that all those charred and smoky flavors channel a smoking tradition that dates back centuries in Denmark. Rene Redzepi has just found a way to make that tradition his own.
Self-Medicating with Adventure
At a fast-moving 225 pages, easily digestible in just a couple of reading sessions, Hungry manages to both encapsulate how we got to this era of celebrity chefs and food porn while serving as its most interesting chapter to date, at least since Anthony Bourdain’s game-changing Kitchen Confidential. Gordinier’s writing is tight yet thorough, name-dropping just enough star chefs to keep foodies gripped, and allowing Redzepi to wax on introspectively without becoming overbearing. There’s plenty of drama as well, primarily from the ambitious Noma pop-ups, where opening on schedule in a remote Mexican jungle is an ever-present concern.
It’s a probing, not solely flattering profile of Redzepi, who was raised in often xenophobic Denmark by a Muslim immigrant from Macedonia, an ironic twist given that he’s the face of Nordic cuisine. You also learn how the Noma machine operates, how young chefs are brought in from around the world and challenged to create dishes that reflect their own cultures. “René is the conductor,” explained Gordinier. “But he’s got a lot of tremendous instrumentalists in his orchestra.”Noma founder René Redzepi (right) reached out to Jeff Gordinier when he was writing about food for the New York Times. The two became friends over a love of tacos, and are seen here just last month at the new Noma in Copenhagen.
Even established chefs like Enrique Olvera and David Chang flock toward Redzepi like he’s some benevolent Svengali. Indeed, while a couple of the trips that Gordinier took were on assignment, “truth be told, I was spending my own money,” he explained.
The quest became an extreme manifestation of what Gordinier had been doing for years after leaving Santa Barbara in 1994 to work for Entertainment Weekly and then Details and the Times. (He now covers food and drink for Esquire.) “I was self-medicating with adventures,” said Gordinier, who has an “extreme problem” with boredom. “My line of work is great for staying young, for keeping your mind vibrant, but it’s not great for marriage. It’s the kind of work that keeps pulling you away from the relationship.”
As Gordinier moves through his divorce and finds new zest for life on the Noma train, he also connects with a public-relations woman he met long ago when they were both in relationships. They hit it off, get pregnant, and then marry on January 12, 2018 at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, when I just so happened to spot them, in my own post-Montecito mudslide haze, walking on their way to Paradise for martinis and burgers. Today, they live just a few homes away from Gordinier’s first wife, sharing custody of their kids with relative ease. “It’s a modern family,” said a content Gordinier.
For the sake of his new family and his sanity, he’s also reset his work life. “I spent a quarter century chasing deadlines,” said Gordinier. “I would like to do some yoga or make it to my son’s baseball game on time.”
Preeti Mistry Goes From Table to Farm
Preeti Mistry is probably best known as the chef-owner of Juhu Beach Club, the now-shuttered Oakland restaurant that came to national prominence for its forward-thinking take on Indian street food — and for its outspoken chef’s willingness to speak out about their experiences as a queer, brown, immigrant chef. These days, however, Mistry isn’t cooking much, at least not in a professional capacity. Instead, for the past three months, the chef has been trying a new profession on for size — as a farmer. “Sort of,” Mistry says.
As the chef explains it, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the Bay Area in full force back in March, Mistry and wife/business partner Ann Nadeau were in the middle of a “staycation” in Guerneville, up in Sonoma County, at a cabin the couple had recently bought as a vacation home. And so, Mistry tells Eater SF, when the shelter-in-place orders came down, the couple wound up staying at the cabin…and then just never left, eventually canceling the lease on their apartment in Oakland.
Eventually, Mistry wound up connecting with Leslie Wiser and Sarah Deragon, who run Radical Family Farms, a small family-run farm in Sebastopol that specializes in hard-to-find Asian heirloom vegetables — and the couple agreed to take Mistry on as an intern. So, with COVID-19 throwing the immediate future of Mistry’s cooking career into question, the chef dove full-on into farming life, even earning the nickname “the Prince of Basil” from the farm’s owners — a reference to Mistry’s very “detailed” basil snipping technique.
Eater SF spoke to Mistry about their new life as a farmer and how the experience has shaped plans for what they hope will be their next big project: a SingleThread/Blue Hill at Stone Barns style farm restaurant designed to showcase BIPOC chefs and non-European cuisines. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Eater: What has the transition from chef to farmer been like for you?
Preeti Mistry: As a chef, I’ve always been working with small farmers, women farmers, and POC farmers — so I’ve always been interested. I started [my internship] in mid-April, so it’s been like three months, three days a week. It’s hard. It’s not easy. I’ve definitely had moments where I’m like, “Okay, I feel really miserable right now but I need to keep doing what I’m doing.” I was excited about the physical part of working on a farm. I’m a chef I thrive when I’m moving my body.
My very first CSA harvest, it was still just the three of us [Mistry, Wiser, and Deragon]. It was pouring rain and 40-something degrees outside. We were out there harvesting radishes, and it was cold, and my jeans were completely drenched. At one point, I was just like, “This is not fun anymore.” And the last few weeks, it’s been fucking so hot.
I think these are all important life lessons. It’s no different than being in a restaurant at whatever point of night and there are all these dishes to be done, and no one else is going to do them.
Will this be a permanent career change — or, if not, how do you think your experience on the farm has changed the way you approach things as a chef?
It seems to me like the government’s response to the pandemic is dictating some of that. If we had gotten our country on the right path, we probably wouldn’t have gotten rid of our house in Oakland. We can’t predict a lot of things, but I don’t see myself being at a restaurant cooking for people in any traditional way anytime soon. If you actually care about your people and your community, the types of issues that chefs and restaurateurs are grappling with every day is just incredibly challenging.
One thing I think about is creating a farm that farms from the menu. Most restaurants are like, “We do all this stuff that’s organic — our asparagus and our heirloom tomatoes, our peaches and cherries.” But shit, I can’t afford to buy organic onions. For me, “farming from the menu” means, what does this kitchen need to survive? Maybe the farm needs an entire field with three successions of yellow onions.
Normally when people do an internship [at Radical Family Farms], they pick and grow something of their own cultural heritage. I started growing fenugreek, and it did really well. I have more fenugreek than I know what to do with right now! In the process we started selling it to Heena [Patel] at Besharam. And now she’s asking for other stuff. We’re already growing two or three different varieties of holy basil for Nari. I asked Reem [Assil, the chef at Reem’s] if she wanted me to grow anything, and she said “How about za’atar?” So now we’re growing za’atar.
Mistry (left) picking flowers at the farm Sarah Deragon
A few weeks ago, you tweeted about how having a restaurant on a farm is basically every chef’s dream — but that, at least in this country, the only people who ever have the opportunity to have a restaurant like that are white chefs who cook European cuisines. That led you to make a sort of pitch on Twitter: “If you want to invest in me and a bunch of other BIPOC chefs cooking Non-European cuisine on a small organic farm (think wood fired wok & tandoor), then DM me please or just send me money.” Is this idea of starting a POC-led restaurant farm a project that you’re actively pursuing right now?
This is something that I’ve been talking about forever in terms of my personal dream. Ann and I have gone through every crazy thing like, “Yes, we’ll have this farm, and there will be Rajasthani glamping tents where people will sleep at night” — you know, this whole scheme, which is very centering myself and also a very grandiose, expensive venture for the customer.
Over the years I’ve expanded my thinking. I think about Stone Barns [the New York-based farm, restaurant, and agricultural nonprofit]. I recently went and looked at their leadership, and the entire leadership is white — and mostly male, definitely all cisgendered, and probably all heterosexual. It’s not until you pore through their website into their public programs that you start to see a person of color or two in the photo.
I just think that people have this disconnect in their heads. Coming from the restaurant industry in cities, what is farm to table? And somehow farm to table is always California cuisine, or it’s bland, or it’s, you know, Rene Redzepi smoking herring or something. It’s not Indian. It’s not Chinese. It’s not Mexican. It’s not Thai. It’s like, what do you think — that all of our produce just grows in a factory? In fact, most of those people are people that were brought to this country, whether by their own choice or not, to farm the land, whether you’re talking about enslaved Africans or Hmong farmers. So to me, it’s just such a weird disconnect.
It goes along the same lines as what a lot of food writers talk about: organic missing the mark by becoming this elitist thing and therefore missing a lot of the younger generation and a lot of POC folks because they’re like, “That’s not me, that’s not my thing.” And yet we are those people. It’s like what [some people of color] say about organic farming — “Oh, you mean what my ancestors did called ‘farming?’”
I really like the combination of chefs creating a restaurant on a farm, whether that’s like Stone Barns or French Laundry in terms of locale and ethos, but not fine dining — not accessible only to the super-wealthy. But that also champions all of these non-European cuisines, whether [the chefs] are really famous and well known, or they’re just regular folks doing their thing, but doing awesome stuff — just to have the opportunity, whether it’s for one night or six months as a chef in residency. The opportunity [for that chef] to be like, I’m going to take my Nigerian cuisine, and I’m going to talk to these farmers three months in advance about certain things I want, and I’m going to go there and create this farm-to-table cuisine. If Preeti’s the main chef there, I’m going to work with them. We’re going to work together and create this thing, and be able to give that opportunity to other chefs who cook non-European cuisines. And then, obviously, have the public be able to partake in that and look at what farm to table is in a very different way.
It’s kind of a grand vision. But a lot of things seem impossible that can be made possible.
I know for sure I’m not going to be the farmer — that’s not my end goal. So I need a farm partner. And my hope is that, given that this is not my original ego vanity project, but something that’s more community-oriented and nonprofit based, there are more stakeholders, so I’m hoping that we will be relatively successful in finding investment money and grant money.
I don’t know what the future holds, but [my wife and I are] probably not looking for a new apartment or condo in Oakland in the next year. This is where I want to put my energy.
Rene Redzepi to Pen Trio of Noma Cookbooks For Home Chefs
He's also launching a biannual publication to support his nonprofit MAD.
With Noma Mexico in his rearview, and an ancient stone wall serving to set back the opening of Noma 2.0 until at least January 2018, you&aposd think Rene Redzepi might actually be thankful for some downtime. But clearly the acclaimed chef has no problem with keeping busy (you knew that), apparently deciding that now is as good a time as any to focus on building his publishing empire. Redzepi has just announced a deal to release a series of three cookbooks and introduce a new biannual publication.
The three-part cookbook series, called Foundations of Flavour, will find the chef working with publisher Artisan to present the knowledge and techniques that made Noma so famous in a manner specifically aimed at home cooks. The first book, scheduled for release one year from now in October 2018, is slated to be titled Foundations of Flavour: The Noma Guide to Fermentation, and will be co-penned with Noma&aposs Director of Fermentation David Zilber. The tomb is being billed as one of the first books on fermentation written from a chef&aposs point of view.
"With the first book in our Foundations of Flavour series, we want to teach the principles of fermentation that have made us successful at noma," Redzepi said in a statement. "I am so excited to be writing a book with David Zilber, and to have the opportunity to pass this knowledge on to a wider audience. We know that our approach to cooking can benefit any kitchen, and we want to inspire people to explore the possibilities of fermentation at home."
Meanwhile, arriving in September 2018 will be the first volume of Dispatches, a biannual publication from MAD, Redzepi&aposs nonprofit that seeks "to galvanize the creative potential of the global cooking community." It will be edited by Chris Ying, the cofounder and former editor-in-chief of Lucky Peach. "With Dispatches, we hope to share some of the conversations that have started at MAD," Redzepi stated. "By making them accessible, we hope to nurture ideas and inspire action that will push forward our trade, our communities, and the world at large."
Of course, these are not Redzepi&aposs first forays into the written word. The chef is already author of two acclaimed books, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine and René Redzepi: A Work in Progress. As far as the remaining two entries into the Foundations of Flavour series, a press release stated that they "are in the early stages of development and will be announced closer to their release and after the publishing of the first title."
René Redzepi at Claridge's: Noma heroes any more
Will you be going to Claridge's in late July or early August for A Taste of Noma? No, me neither. Not just because it costs £195 a seat and not just because it sold out almost immediately, but also because, on a deeper level, it's really, really disappointing. I am generally ambivalent about guest chef events. Some work, some don't. But this is surely one which, at best, can only offer a very distant echo of Noma.
Naively, I expected better of René Redzepi. He made his name cooking Nordic food using strictly Nordic ingredients in a waterside Copenhagen warehouse designed - in its rustic, weather-beaten look and the laid back, democratic way it operates - to emphasise a new model of fine dining. It is a unique experience. One, I'd wager, that it will be impossible to recreate in a swanky ballroom at Claridge's using not the Nordic ingredients that Redzepi knows intimately, but British raw materials. (What else could a chef whose culinary ethos is so one of "time and place" do - ship them all over from Denmark?)
That - what? - compromise, pragmatic concession, contradiction on the ingredients front is probably one of the reasons why, previously, Redzepi has disdained such spin-off projects. While conceding that the Noma "concept" might be transferable, he told Eater in 2010: "How do you roll it out to a big money maker? You don't. That's the simple answer to that. What we're doing at the restaurant can only be done there."
Quite. Which is why I had hoped that, instead of such watered-down events, Redzepi would continue to concentrate solely on cultivating his radical Copenhagen restaurant. Here's a chef whose message was, surely: study your own environment, immerse yourself in it, then cook.
Of course, Redzepi is not the first famous chef to cook locally and seasonally or use foraged ingredients. But implicitly, Noma's success challenged every northern European kitchen still cooking to a broadly Mediterranean agenda to explain and justify that. If the best restaurant in the world can cook using native ingredients, why can't you? As Jay Rayner has observed, if fine dining restaurants serve any wider social function, it is that, like F1 or haute couture, some ludicrous ideas filter down to the street. In its local, seasonal militancy, Noma is precisely such an inspirational project. This Claridge's event tarnishes that aura.
When I ate at Noma, in 2008, it certainly felt like a restaurant apart. When we arrived, Redzepi was at the front desk, casually checking in guests. Subverting the usual kitchen hierarchy, junior chefs delivered dishes to the table. The food, while expensive (this is Copenhagen), was of a piece. It didn't fall back on signifiers of wealth and exclusivity. There were no flashy luxury ingredients. Instead each dish spoke of a monumental seriousness.
As chefs go, Redzepi felt fresh, too. A bit punk rock even. When he won the Chef's Chef award at the 2009 50 Best, he used his acceptance speech to bait those who had once christened his team "seal fuckers". A year later, when Noma took the top spot, its staff all wore T-shirts with a picture of their pot-washer, Alieu, who couldn't travel to the event in an unusual act of solidarity. Recently, incensed by a rash of no-shows at Noma, Redzepi posted pictures of his staff giving the finger to the absent diners on Twitter.
Journalists who visited Copenhagen to interview him found him cycling around Christianshavn dressed like the fifth member of Franz Ferdinand and talking about how he wasn't in this for fame, money or flash cars. He was more interested in maintaining his work-life balance. Where most famous chefs are keen to cash in and diversify, Redzepi said he found it awkward presenting guests with the bill: "One of the things I hate about having a restaurant is charging people."
Yet, here we are. Redzepi is cooking at Claridge's for those who can splurge £195 a seat. Granted, none of this is the end of the world. Noma remains an exceptional restaurant. Perhaps Redzepi needs to top up his salary (under £50,000 in 2010). I just wish that, if that is the case, he could have done something more in keeping with the professed spirit of Noma.
But who cares, right? Apparently, 10,000 people applied for a seat at Claridge's. Will you be there?
Noma Chef René Redzepi’s Guide to Eating in Tokyo
When Noma chef Rene Redzepi describes Japan, ‘mind-blowing’ is a word you’ll hear him use frequently. Redzepi, whose Copenhagen restaurant has been repeatedly rated number one in the world, traveled to Japan over 11 times (thanks to the support of Japan’s All Nippon Airways [ANA]) to prepare for his pop-up restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. “Culturally, it’s like going to the moon,” he says, as he stands in the kitchen of the pop-up. Meanwhile, one of his chefs carefully chops ants into thirds for the evening’s 16-course dinner service for one of the most buzzed-about dishes on the menu: raw, still-twitching shrimp seasoned with wood ants from Nagano. “I have never traveled to any other place that is truly as different as Japan," he continues. "You learn a lot about yourself and the world by being here.”
Redzepi's Tokyo outpost closes February 14, much to the dismay of the 60,000-plus people on the waitlist to dine there. And, for those of you wondering, he’s not looking to plant permanent roots in the city. (He hinted that a tropical pop-up location might be next up.) “I am happy at home in Denmark. We are looking for more challenge and experience, not more restaurants,” he says. “We feel we haven’t perfected it at home and we are trying to reach as close to that as possible by coming here.”
However, Redzepi’s exploration of Japanese food culture won’t end when the last meal is served this week. After multiple hours of tasting the chef's deeply intelligent, mind-blowing creations (chocolate covered mushrooms with cinnamon root caramelized black garlic flowers with rose oil sea urchin pie with a tart shell made of kombu etc.), we sat down with him to find his favorite food and drink haunts in the city.
How did you immerse yourself into the culture for this project?
We have been all over Japan—ANA took us everywhere. Tokyo is so easy to fall in love with because they have the best of everything. People are so nice, but it’s not like a Scandinavian city, where it can become too pretty and perfect. There is also an undercurrent of stuff and grit. But then you can go to the north and have the best ski in the world. My favorite ryokans are in Ishikawa. Kanazawa is also amazing—they have a school where 18-year-olds are doing plates and cutlery and it’s just stunning. And I still have lots of places I want to see, like the art island Naoshima. I’m going after we finish here.
Chefs working at René Redzepi's Tokyo pop-up restaurant.
What is the one restaurant you are dying to try in Japan?
I was dying to go to Mibu, and then [Mibu chef Hiroshi Ishida] came for dinner here and then he opened up his restaurant three Sundays in a row for our staff. Also, Ten Zushi is the sushi place I want to eat the most in all of Tokyo. That guy’s food looks amazing! Also, Sushi Saito in town—I have a table at the end of the month. I have been to most of the places in Kyoto. Go to Kyoto in April or November and you will never want to leave. All the gardens turn pink because of the cherry blossom flowers.
What are some of your favorite coffee spots here? Are you a Bear Pond guy?
Switch Coffee in Shibuya for sure. I like Bear Pond but it’s not my style of coffee. My kind of coffee is a very dark roast and in Scandinavia it’s all very lightly roasted. At Switch, you can also have six roasts, from six beans, from six countries and try them all individually. That’s a very unique offer. Next to Switch there is a brunch place that is unbelievable. I can’t remember the name, but it’s one of the best brunches you have ever tried. They seat 14 people, it’s a husband-and-wife team. My other favorite for coffee is Fuglen.
Where do you and your team like to go and unwind?
There is one bar called JB’s Bar—you go in and there aren’t many seats. One guy owns it, like so many places here, and he has a very specific vision—he loves jazz, soul, and funk. He has more than 15,000 vinyls on display. You go in first and order your vinyl, he puts it on, and then you order your drink. That’s pretty amazing. There is another place called Bar Gen Yamamoto, this is a place everyone needs to go. Order a Bloody Mary and see them peel a tomato from Kyushu in the south, and it tastes like the best thing you’ve ever had they pulp it with the water in the glass, and then put vodka in it. There is another place we hear is even better, called Ben Fiddich. They make their own Campari from scratch. It takes a while because he has to muddle the Campari together with like 17,000 ingredients. It’s mind blowing.
Where do local chefs chop?
We go to the fish market in the early morning. It’s really an amazing experience. Food is such an important part of everyday life here. And the farmers markets on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s at the university in Omotesando. I just go for the feeling and the ambience. The guy who sells us his walnuts is there and we go and have coffee with him. It’s always nice to be inspired.
What are some of the best local cheap eats?
There are some amazing izakayas (like a Japanese pub), they are unbelievable—people just drinking beer and food is just flowing. You get stuff like the cheek of tuna simmered and with soy, a bowl of rice, and beer. It’s quick and so cheap. You should go to Sushi Zendai at the market, it’s open 24 hours. Just go to see how good cheap chain sushi restaurants can be. Last time it was like 80 dollars for like three people and we had about 20 pieces each and beer.
7-Eleven is known for good food here. Have you eaten there?
I have gone just to see it and have a brain melt. You can go to 7-Eleven here and get prized noodle house food. There’s also an ice cream for sale at 7-Eleven that is so good but I haven’t tried it yet because it sells out so fast.
Redzepi and Chang on Poisonous Mushrooms and Chefs as Terrorists at the NYPL
Yesterday evening chefs René Redzepi and David Chang appeared at The New York Public Library — the place they shot Ghostbusters — for a discussion moderated by Ruth Reichl.
After a few introductions in which, by my count, variations of the phrase "best restaurant in the world" were uttered 652 times, the three amigos came onstage for a 45-minute talk that focused mainly on Redzepi and what he does at his restaurant Noma. For the somewhat familiar i.e. anyone that's read the Bruni article, watched the Charlie Rose episode, or read basically any interview with the Nordic superstar, the affair was a bit of a snooze.
Reichl was textbook, keeping the talk within the realm of the epistemological cooking Redzepi has become famous for: What truly is a carrot? Where does it come from? How should we treat it? In all fairness to Reichl, the crowd, classy as it looked, had its fair share of rubes and folks who seemed like they were hoping for prune juice recipes from the toques.
The first question was prompted by an introductory video presentation on Ferran Adriá's visit to the Library a few years ago. Referring to the Catalan chef's comment that you can't and shouldn't worry about understanding his food, Reichl asked if Redzepi's mission could be described as being the opposite. He agreed and then began to explain the first in a series of demo videos of renowned Noma dishes. They included Vintage Carrot, the Hen and the Egg, The Sea, and Asparagus and Spruce. For every single one, the Macedonian hottie got up from his chair and walked the audience through the entire process. If Chang is the jock Son Volt fan who drinks beers, doesn't have any kids, and describes his aims as "we just try to make tasty food," Redzepi is the colorful European, the guy who can't shut up about passion, magic powders, and how much he loves his little daughter.
Among Redzepi's most interesting responses was the one to the question, "Why this type of cuisine?" As in the past, he described how he had worked in some of the greatest kitchens in the world and that his original intentions were to return to Copenhagen and do his own take on the three-star thing. But he changed his mind after staging at elBulli, an experience that gave him "a sense of freedom" and made him realize how tired he had become of "the act," the silly pomp and luxury that accompanied fine dining the whole undertaking needed "some rawness." It was also during this time in Girona that a fellow stagaire by the name of Grant Achatz let Redzepi take a look at The French Laundry Cookbook, a text that amazed him: "[Keller] was embracing things that people made fun of. pop culture. the mac and cheese." He asked Achatz to get him into the restaurant for what would be his first visit to the country he knew had given the world Terminator.
The importance of foraging and "discovering the stuff you pass by" took up a large chunk of the proceedings. Redzepi talked about how he usually uses his iPhone in order to pin down locations and take photos of potential areas: "ancient ways with new technology." And he suggested, completely seriously, that New York get hip to it, too: "Why not forage in Central Park?" Chang, who mentioned he had mistakenly tried a poisonous mushroom on an excursion with Redzepi, said that we simply don't have the abundance of natural resources the guys at Noma do.
With Ferran Adriá's recent financial troubles in mind, Reichl asked how Redzepi makes this all pay. The chef suggested that it doesn't, really — that it's all about passion. "Chefs are natural born martyrs. they'd make the best terrorists."
Would he ever serve insects at his restaurant? If he found the right ones, "absolutely."
Will he ever do something affordable, like his buddy Chang does? "I don't think I have the brains for it. Chang makes it affordable and it's fucking delicious."
If the preceding paragraphs don't make it clear enough, this was René's night, and Chang was there to back up his pal. His team prepared 300 goodie bags — the brown ones they use at Milk Bar and other Momo establishments — filled with carrots, radishes, herbs, and a wild kiwi from Maine that was absolutely bonkers. Chang also spoke of his admiration for the "execution, discipline, integrity, care, tenacity, and comraderie" of the Noma operation, something he "tries to emulate." He explained how he's sent several cooks to stage in Copenhagen, and that when they come home, they return better chefs and better people. In lauding how his friend has created a local cuisine in "just seven years," Chang dropped a few measured bombs on New York: "We need to find our identity, not just make more of the same. We need individual thinking."
The evening concluded with questions from the audience, the most exciting of which included a plea from a chef for a stage at either Momofuku or Noma. Chang smiled, Redzepi said they'd chat after. The last one, perhaps too appropriately, was what their last meals on earth would be. Redzepi: "a bowl of blueberries and cream with my wife and daughter." Chang: "no comment."