Finding Noma

Big news from Copenhagen this week:

I admit freely to an unabashed chef crush on Rene Redzepi. In the process of collaborating on a contemporary iteration of Nordic cuisine, he has broadened the landscape from which as chefs we may draw inspiration from.

Rene Redzepi is an innovator and a leader. He was one of the chefs to not only sign but also help draft the New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto, that when taken at face value constitutes the basis for the whole movement. But taken in a more general context, or one specific to our own South Carolina Lowcountry, the manifesto speaks volumes:


As Nordic chefs we find that the time has now come for us to create a New Nordic Kitchen, which in virtue of its good taste and special character compares favorable with the standard of the greatest kitchens of the world.
The aims of the New Nordic Kitchen are:
1) To express the purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics we wish to associate to our region.
2) To reflect the changes of the seasons in the meal we make.
3) To base our cooking on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly in our climates, lanscapes and waters.
4) To combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge of health and well-being.
5) To promote Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers – and to spread the word about their underlying cultures.
6) To promote animal welfare and a sound production process in our seas, on our farmland and in the wild.
7) To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.
8) To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.
9) To combine local self-suffiency with regional sharing of high-quality products.
10) To join forces with consumer representatives, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, fishing, food, retail and wholesales industries, researchers, teachers, politicians and authorities on this project for the benefit and advantage of everyone in the Nordic countries.

Growing up as a Macedonian immigrant in Copenhagen has helped shaped Rene’s worldview, and his style of leadership. While he retains positional authority as chef, he is very focused on inclusion, and perpetuates a culture of clear sky thinking through his now famous Saturday Night Projects. You tell me- are you more apt to stick with an organization when your engagement and active participation are required, or when your role is essentially just that of a robot?

Rene recognized the value in foraging to reflect a distilled representation of flavor and terroir. While he has since recognized the potential impact our surroundings may incur, It is again an approach that is very non-traditional. Rather than the dogmatic worship of the holy trinity of caviar, truffles and foie gras, the Noma team realized that a hyperfocus on local would enable them to work with product and flavors available nowhere else. He has broadcast these thoughts via the Mad Food Camp he founded in 2011.

Rene added incredible depth of flavor to many dishes through experimenting with fermentation. Using the traditional and time honored process of making Japanese miso, Rene and his team at the Nordic Food Lab replaced the traditional aspergillus oryzae fungus and allowed the growth of local fungus and yeasts. By allowing natural fermentation with local microbes, he has created a microbial reflection of distilled local terroir.

Last year, the Noma team took their show on the road to Japan, where they set up shop for several weeks in the winter. This year they will do the same in Australia, not trying to recreate what they’ve done, but rather to apply their processes using the landscape and flavors of Australia. Finally, in December of 2016, Noma will close, move, reinvent itself, and re-open, having morphed into something new altogether. Congratulations to the Noma team and Rene Redzepi- looks like I need to figure out how to get to Copenhagen for a stage.

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