René Redzepi is the half-Danish, half-Macedonian head chef and co-owner of Restaurant Noma, the two-Michelin star restaurant in Copenhagen that is at the very forefront of the emergent New Nordic cuisine.
Noma – a combination of Nordish (Nordic) and Mad (food) – is a partnership between René Redzepi, Danish restaurateur and TV chef Claus Meyer (regarded by many as the godfather of New Nordic) and Swedish sommelier Pontus Elufsson.
“At Noma, we aim to offer a personal rendition of Nordic gourmet cuisine, where typical methods of cooking fine, Nordic raw produce and the legacy of our common food culture are all subjected to an innovative gastronomic approach,” Meyer explains in the restaurant’s first cookbook.
2010: First place in San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards
René Redzepi has the credentials for trailblazing cuisine, having worked at some of the world’s finest Michelin-star restaurants. Between 1993 and 1997, he worked at the one-Michelin-star Restaurant Pierre-André in Copenhagen before travelling the world to gain experience at three three-Michelin-starred establishments. These included Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in California, the Pourcel brothers’ Le Jardin des Sens in France and Ferran Adria’s world-renowned El Bulli restaurant in Spain.
He returned to Copenhagen in late 2001 to work as sous chef at the one-Michelin-star Kong Hans Kœlder restaurant before opening Restaurant Noma in the city’s regemerated dockland area in November 2003. The restaurant scooped its first Michelin star in 2005 and its second in 2007.
In September 2004, just 10 months after opening Noma, Meyer and Redzepi organised the Nordic Cuisine Symposium where chefs drew up a manifesto that was adopted in its entirety by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
This statement of intent recalls the resolution adopted by Basque chefs in 1973 to promote Spanish cuisine on the world stage – a link that has been highlighted by El Bulli’s Ferran Adria in his observation that, “If Spain was the new France in culinary terms, then Nordic must surely be the new Spain.”
Noma’s strategy of regenerating Scandinavian ingredients and cooking processes with a modern twist is reflected in its location in North Atlantic House, a 250-year-old harbourside shipping warehouse that was, at the turn of the Millennium, given a grant to promote the culture of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
Redzepi toured the North Atlantic for seven weeks to help define what Nordic food was and to source products not easily available through traditional channels. During this time, he unearthed such hidden treasures as horse-mussels and deep-sea crabs from the Faroe Islands, seaweeds and skry (a nearly fat-free cultured-milk product) from Iceland, and musk ox from Greenland.
The Noma menu is mix of costly and everyday ingredients, unusual foraged native foods, and home-prepared vinegars, beers, spirits and wines (made from birch sap, arctic brambles or cloudberries).
Alongside new cooking techniques, Noma has revitalised age-old, curative and non-chemical methods such as smoking, salting, pickling, drying, grilling and baking on slabs of basalt stone.
The result is some strikingly unfamiliar items on the Noma menu – for example, wild lamb served with a leather-sheathed knife with reindeer horn handles that were handmade in Lapland, or a potatoes dish combining different temperatures and textures that is dusted in a crunchy malt ‘soil’ and served on a hot stone from the potato field.
René Redzepi on CatererSearch
The Independent: Copenhagen’s stunning Noma brings out the Viking in Terry Durack >>
eG Forums – Noma, picture report from Copenhagen, Denmark >>
La Tartine Gourmande blog: The Colours of Copenhagen >>
Reviews of the Noma cookbook
The New Nordic Cuisine on the Web
The New Nordic Cuisine (from the Noma cookbook) >>
Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen >>
Culinary Copenhagen (the Boston Globe) >>
Iceland: Food and Wine: Manifesto for a New Nordic Cuisine >>
Time Magazine – Where The Wild Things Are >>
Visit Denmark: Trends, Chefs, and Kitchens >>