Q&A: René Redzepi

René Redzepi is the owner and chef of Noma, this and last year’s winner San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurant title. Luxury Travel Beat sat down with him to discover the secret to his phenomenal success.

René Redzepi : Head Chef of Noma, the world’s best restaurant.

LTB: Your restaurant has been voted the world’s best restaurant for two consecutive years now. What is the secret to your success?

RR: Let me start by saying the concept of a restaurant being the best is entirely too subjective in my opinion. But it is a democratic process and people vote for the restaurants they deem best, so we’ll take it. In terms of what our secret is well we opened our restaurant just as a zeitgeist was occurring; there has been a move towards the localized and natural, and people are again exploring foods in their most natural forms as well as sourcing it locally . People also realized that the food systems currently in place needs to give way to a more sustainable system that is beneficial to both the top soil, the earth and its people. We are part of the new food system, and we are showing that if it can be done in a cold, dark northern European country, it can be done anywhere.

We also have an incredible team and each member of brings unique talents to the table at the same time as they enjoy working at the restaurant and being fully attuned to the food revolution that is now taking place. The sum of all of us and all this is  what makes us a success.

LTB: Will the popularity and mainstream  renown that comes with being the recepient of such a title make Noma less authentic?

RR: Absolutely not. For us it has been an amazing thing. We are a restaurant in Denmark that cooks just as well today as it did before being given this title. But an award like this now contributes greatly to who we are. You need these accolades to open your brand up for the world. Another great thing that it has done for us is that today we actually make exactly what we want as opposed to being forced to have a certain percentage of our menu consist of say evergreens for the vegetarians and steaks for the business people and so forth. Today we have complete freedon and can prepare whatever we want because people come to Noma to experience the food; they are not there just to have supper and fill themselves up. I think that’s amazing.

LTB: Growing up in Norway where many of my childhood summers consisted of going on road trips to Sweden and Denmark, I found that
Scandinavians in general have a profound inferiority complex when it comes to their cuisine. Is Noma trying to change this?

RR: I think we are. Scandinavians are perplexing; Bring up design and they will talk for hours. We’ve spent decades upon decades creating
beautiful hand-crafted chairs, wonderful tables, fine linen, glassware, Royal Copenhagen plateware, but everything we put on it we had no relationship to it;
the wine that went into the glassware, the food on to the plate. We’ve never really felt a connection to these things. I personally think it’s because of
our religion. As protestants we never allowed ourselves to truly eat food for pleasure. It was simply basic sustenance, a way of survival. The best example of it is reading Babette’s Feast, which is actually set in Norway, but there you see food served hot, thoroughly cooked and eaten in complete silence. Those
around the table eat that one course and life moves on. That legacy is in us, and that lifestyle around food, the connectivity around food –
we’ve never really had. And the funny thing is we have to go on holidays further South to allow ourselves to do that. So we are trying to put back a little confidence and
to tell Scandinavians we have the ingredients, it’s just a matter of us changing our way of thinking.

LTB: How?

RR: By exploring the ingredients in our countries and cooking these. We’re not doing anything special, that is the point.

LTB: What does the Scandinavian Kitchen have to offer the world?

RR: Good food can be made anywhere. That’s it. It’s a matter of commitment and dedication.

LTB: What’s next for you now?

RR: The Same.

LTB: The World’s Best Restaurant title in 2012?

RR: We’ll take it if it’s given to us. (laughs) But we will keep the same things that have brought us much success, we are not changing
anything . We are very happy with how things are going. This is really really good.

Noma: Web site: www.noma.dk. Address: Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen, Denmark. Telephone number +45 3296 3297

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