Cateys 2016: International Outstanding Achievement Award
Sponsored by Elior
An absolute leader in his field, René Redzepi is credited with running one of the most influential restaurants of our time. Having trained under some of the most legendary chefs in the business, his name is now a byword for the stripped-back fine dining driven by determined seasonality and provenance that has inspired many of the new launches of the last decade.
Led by Redzepi, Noma is a celebration of the region's ingredients, and has undoubtedly elevated vegetables. How many chefs would have the confidence to serve carrots as a main course, for instance? And certainly the trend for foraging was sparked by Redzepi's commitment to picking the perfect ingredient. The barren and long Copenhagen winter also meant that his fermentation techniques were honed to ensure a constant supply of ingredients - and these techniques have been emulated by chefs worldwide as they borrow elements of the Redzepi approach.
In a world where chefs have become rock stars, Redzepi hasn't risen to the top without creating some memorable crowd-pleasers. Serving ants and live prawns generated plenty of excitement. And while Noma is a fine-dining restaurant, its style - where tattooed chefs introduce and serve the dishes personally - has given many other restaurants the confidence to pack away the tablecloths in favour of a more relaxed approach where the food does the talking.
Sat Bains, who met Redzepi in 1999 when they were both stagiaires at Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, commented: "Prior to opening Noma, René went on an extensive research trip around Denmark. I remember him telling me he was going to open a new restaurant with local food serving local ingredients. That was nearly 15 years ago and to see how that has taken hold and swept across the globe is incredible. He showed chefs how to use produce they didn't even know was on their doorstep. It became a movement that changed the industry for the better."
"He has opened other countries' eyes to native cuisine. His pop-ups have shown Japan and Australia that they are heritage sites and he has inspired chefs to cook from the land in the style of his restaurant, a philosophy he has had for 15 years. His legacy is undeniable."
And his influence is far-reaching. "Any new wave attracts a lot of young, talented chefs from the UK," adds Bains, "but look how many have passed through the door at Noma both as customers and employees - it's unbelievable."
When Noma - which held the number one spot of the World's 50 Best for three consecutive years - closes at the end of this year, Redzepi will enter a new era. As The New York Times wrote at the time of the announcement: "The changes at Noma are not driven by necessity. There has not been a rent increase; business remains brisk. The chef simply believes that the restaurant, where he has led the kitchen for 12 years, is ready for a drastic evolution."
We have no reason to doubt that the evolution will be anything short of spectacular.
The editorial team of The Caterer, with nominations from all the Cateys judging panels
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