Noma, The Menu-est of Restaurants, Is Closing

Noma, the Danish restaurant that expanded the global imagination’s idea of Scandinavian food beyond Ikea meatballs, is closing its doors to the public, not that they were open to the vast majority of the public to begin with. Renowned celebrity chef René Redzepi told the New York Times that his Copenhagen restaurant will close for regular service at the end of 2024.

This news comes months after conductor Lydia Tár quipped in the hit film Tár that a nervous student’s music “sounds like René Redzepi’s recipe for reindeer.” Whether Redzepi is shuttering his successful culinary destination in direct response to getting epically owned by Lydia Tár has not been confirmed, but we mustn’t dismiss the possibility.

Redzepi opened Noma in 2003 and already earned its first Michelin star by 2005. The restaurant, which highlighted local Nordic flora and fauna in its inventive menus, topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. In 2019, the list implemented a rule banning repeat winners, but after Noma closed in 2016 and reopened in a new building, it qualified to win again in 2021, the same year that it received its third Michelin star. Anthony Bourdain met with Redzepi and visited Noma in a 2013 episode of Parts Unknown, and the restaurant became cultural shorthand for a certain type of hyperconceptual, minimalist-yet-extravagant trendy haute cuisine.

It also became another example of the toxic labor practices and workplace culture of certain high-end restaurants. In 2015, Redzepi wrote an essay for Lucky Peach admitting to subjecting his staff to physical abuse, verbal bullying, and shouting. Furthermore, workers came forward about unreasonably long working days and sometimes working for free. These conditions, paired with the fastidious nature of the restaurant experience for customers, were one source of inspiration for Mark Mylod’s 2022 fine-dining satire The Menu. In an interview with Thrillist, production designer Ethan Tobman cited Noma as an inspiration for the film’s fictional hyperlocal, hyperexpensive restaurant, Hawthorn.

Redzepi cites the “unsustainable” cost of paying 100 workers fairly as a reason for closing. “We have to completely rethink the industry,” he tells the Times. “This is simply too hard, and we have to work in a different way.” Noma charges over $400 a seating before wine pairings, but it only began paying interns this past October. Redzepi will maintain the Noma brand under his new Noma Projects operation, which will staff 60 to 70 full-time workers to develop and sell home-cooking items online.

So far, these include bottles of “Forager’s Vinaigrette,” wild-rose vinegar, and smoked-mushroom garum. The enterprise resembles Row 7, the experimental seed cultivar brand spun off of another Menu analog, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The home gourmand e-commerce route is certainly one way to give a legendary restaurant with a difficult chef a dignified ending; The Menu’s s’mores approach is another. There is a silver lining, though. The most annoying food bro you know will never, ever get into Noma. Chef’s kiss.

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