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Noma, a three Michelin-starred restaurant that has taken home the title of “World’s Best Restaurant” in 2021, 2014, 2012, 2011 and 2010, announced it will be closing its doors to the public.
On Jan. 9, The New York Times broke the news, speaking to chef, owner and co-founder René Redzepi, who said his Copenhagen, Denmark restaurant will close for regular service at the end of 2024, citing what the culinary juggernaut called an “unsustainable” model. It’s a model that has recently come under scrutiny for its reliance on unpaid interns and cheap labor. (Noma started paying its interns in October 2022, according to the Times.)
“Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work,” Redzepi said, adding that the business will make a notable shift that doesn’t include serving a house full of patrons every night.
Noma first opened in 2003 and eschewed typical fine-dining trends at the time by using ingredients that were at the time forgotten or underused, sourcing local, seasonal ingredients for its menus. Instead of foie gras, caviar or Kobe beef, Noma served reindeer brains and pickled kombu.
This type of risk-taking in the kitchen proved immensely popular and begat a culinary movement, known as New Nordic, which spread throughout the rest of the world’s food scenes.
In its time, Noma received three Michelin stars, topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list five times (rendering them ineligible for future features) and appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” increasing its cache — and explaining why a meal there costs patrons at least $420.
Still, creating dishes like ragout of reindeer with cooked grains and seed placed on a bed of brightly colored autumn leaves or a koji-cured cod roe waffle whose recipe features nine different fermented ingredients proved untenable for both leaders and staff, with many accusations of toxic workplace culture being leveled at the eatery over the years.
For his part, Redzepi has owned up to verbally and physically abusing staff in a 2015 essay and has publicly said he has gotten “many hours of therapy” since. Redzepi cited the meticulous workload and rigorous techniques to make every dish as reasons for the changes to the business coming.
According to a letter posted on Noma’s website, the restaurant, its staff and kitchen will transition into becoming a full-time food laboratory, developing items for an e-commerce site called Noma Projects that the restaurant launched in 2022. Currently, the shop offers unique concoctions like smoked mushroom garum, wild rose vinegar and other items.
“To continue being noma, we must change,” begins the letter on Noma’s website, adding that winter of 2024 will mark the official closing of Noma “as we know it” and naming the new chapter Noma 3.0.
“In 2025, our restaurant is transforming into a giant lab—a pioneering test kitchen dedicated to the work of food innovation and the development of new flavors, one that will share the fruits of our efforts more widely than ever before,” reads the post. “In this next phase, we will continue to travel and search for new ways to share our work.”
Noma also said that pop-ups in locations outside of Copenhagen may sprout up, but that when it’s “gathered enough new ideas and flavors,” it’ll do a season in Copenhagen. The author adds that Noma’s time will be spent on exploring new projects and developing many more ideas and products.
“Serving guests will still be a part of who we are,” reads the post. “But being a restaurant will no longer define us.”
Washington, D.C. native Joseph Lamour is a lover of food: its past, its present and the science behind it. With food, you can bring opposites together to form a truly marvelous combination, and he strives to take that sentiment to heart in all that he does.
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