Posts tagged ‘noma’

April 14, 2013

Rene Redzepi speaks from the heart in Toronto

[This article and video were first published on Vacay.ca on April 10, 2013.]

The world knows Rene Redzepi can cook, but who knew he could write?

On Monday afternoon, Redzepi stood in front of 500 attendees at the Terroir Symposium in Toronto and read from a manuscript he prepared especially for the conference. Candidly, he detailed his passion for food, the roots of that passion that go back to his childhood in rural Denmark, how being true to his desires propelled his culinary success, and why losing sight of those desires led to standing on a beach in Mexico and contemplating running away from Noma and the mania surrounding it. His words about the dangers of burning out were a generous gift to chefs in the audience striving to attain what Redzepi has accomplished at his Danish restaurant. They were also extremely well thought out sentences, carefully chosen nouns and verbs that resonated with emotion.

Redzepi spoke about how so many people were advising him to go against the ethic of Noma, which has always been about food and flavours first and foremost. The restaurant, which has topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for three straight years, has never had the finest silverware or the most fashionable wait staff, but Redzepi has been encouraged in recent years to add such pretentiousness. Advisors told him to reach for more accolades and that meant more material luxury in his rustic dining space “as if a fucking bowtie would make the food taste better.” On top of those influences was the intense pressure of running a business that has faced more scrutiny in the culinary world than any other restaurant on the planet in the past four years.

“I said, ‘Why am I doing this?’” Redzepi said to the crowd at Terroir, an annual gathering that brings together international food industry professionals to discuss sustainability and better practices.

Afterwards, he told Vacay.ca and other media, “We got very confused at Noma when we first started having success. I went to cooking school to learn to whip a bernaise, not how to deal with the New York Times in a press conference.”

Like many accidental celebrities, Redzepi found himself performing tasks he never endeavoured to perform and, on top of 85-hour work weeks at the restaurant, the demands on his time resulted in a wish to escape. However, his drive to improve overwhelmed any thoughts of quitting. After introspection about how to deal with the stress and what it was doing to him, the 35-year-old said he chose to clutch onto the beliefs that made him so celebrated in the first place.

“I feel more energized than ever,” he said, explaining that any downbeat sentiments in his story were there as a cautionary note to other chefs. He urged them to not lose their vision, or allow it to be circumvented by people who feel they are better at business or public relations or management. “This was a story about memories and also a story about sticking to what you know.”

What Redzepi understands better than just about anyone is how to make the most of the quality of food within your grasp. When speaking about the use of unusual ingredients in his cuisine, he said, “It is all about a search for flavours, it has nothing to do with shock value.”

The ants that he uses in his dishes are “little tiny creatures” that have what he describes as an explosive taste exotic to Scandinavians. “Here we are in cold, grey, shitty, Protestant Denmark with our potatoes and our beet root, and suddenly you have the flavours of ginger and lemongrass to put on your beet root. That is magnificent.”

read more »

Advertisements
April 18, 2011

Noma tops World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards again — plus read my picks

Bellevue Brasserie in St. Petersburg, Russia

Caviar and champagne at Bellevue Brasserie in St. Petersburg, Russia. The restaurant was one of my picks for the World's 50 Best.

[As published in the Toronto Star on April 18, 2011.]

Skim through the list of the world’s best restaurants and you won’t find one from Canada. No Langdon Hall, Rouge, West, North 44 or any favourites in Montreal or Vancouver Island. That’s not only discouraging for the chefs and restaurant owners here, it’s a shock to the man who’s been championing Canada’s culinary scene.

Steve Dolinsky, an acclaimed food reporter from Chicago, is the chairperson for the Mid-United States/Canada region of Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 Best judging academy. This year, Dolinsky made sure there were more Canadian-based judges than ever, which he thought would lead to more of this country’s restaurants making the grade. But the two establishments that scored positions on Restaurant Magazine’s World’s Best list last year — Rouge (60) in Calgary and Cambridge’s venerable Langdon Hall (77) — dropped out of the rankings for 2010. No Canadian restaurant has made the top 50 since 2003, when Michael Stadtländer’s Eiginsenn Farm from Singhampton placed 28th, a year after coming in the top 10.

“There’s no Canadian restaurant in the top 100 and that stuns me,” says Dolinsky, who was in London, England, where this year’s rankings were revealed at Guildhall on Monday. “With more judges from Canada than ever and with those judges being from all over the country, the only thing that I can think of is the votes were spread out. One restaurant may have gotten a vote here, another may have gotten two there, so things may not have been as concentrated as they were before. I’m really surprised there wasn’t more consensus.”

read more »