COPENHAGEN: When Noma reopens on 1 June it will be a special reopening despite the difficulties the restaurant has faced over the past months. With most of the team dispersed around the four corners of the world. René Redzepi has decided to wait for the reopening despite the financial and mental hardships of the past few months.
And for the first day, he is inviting 100 guests who have made a difference in people’s lives throughout the pandemic. “At first we called hospitals and asked to invite doctors but they told us that this was not possible because of Danish rules on bribery. They are not able to accept any gifts. Instead we have called on our local guests to nominate someone that has made a difference. It could be a doctor, a nurse or someone who has carried the groceries for someone in need. We had 3,500 applications and our staff were crying going through the applications reading some of the heartbreaking stories. We want to bring in these people as a way of thanking them, as a way of doing something special for people who did special things,” the Danish chef of Noma said.
That invitation is also open to another 100 people from outside Denmark but in this case, this will be made possible when they can travel to the restaurant.
While restaurants in Denmark reopened on 21 April, René Redzepi said Noma would reopen on 1 June because most of the team was not in Copenhagen. “We thought that the reopening would take place either in mid-May or 1 June so most of the team are not in Denmark,” he said.
Speaking about the first day of the reopening, René said that he had sat down with his management team and had asked how do they open up again, how do they reconnect with people. “The main question for us was how to reopen a restaurant in 2021. That was how the idea came about.”
In a panel discussion Green Minds Think Alike moderated by food journalist and GELINAZ! founder Andrea Petrini, the Danish chef spoke of the difficulties of the past few months.
“The second lockdown hit me much harder than the first. I had some really bad weeks where I could not recognise myself. I know that the majority of my team also had these strong reactions and were questioning when all this would end,” he said.
There was this anxiety that I needed to deal with. It was new to me
“This was new to me. I did not have this in the first lockdown but in the second lockdown, there was this anxiety that I needed to deal with,” he said.
Redzepi said that to counter this, he would go to the restaurant every day and work on the new menu as if the restaurant would reopen the next day. “It was also the reason why we started walking and set up a hiking group. We had a swim group and jumped into the ice-cold waters of Copenhagen and we had a sauna group. I read so many books to have a clear mind and stay ahead,” he said.
The restaurant has lost a lot of money over the past months even though it received financial aid. “With the financial aid, we could cover 80 per cent of our costs and I am really grateful for this but the rest is on us and we have not fired anyone from our team,” he said.
He told Andrea Petrini that while the next years are going to be tough financially it was more important to stay healthy, strong and mentally creative as a team. “What does it matter to have a lot of money if you are not stable. I’d rather be stable and work five years to catch up financially,” he said.
Speaking about the menu, Redzepi said that it will reflect Noma’s philosophy of presenting time and place on a plate. “We are on our second menu now. We prepared the first menu but now we are entering the summer season so that menu will never be served. It will not be a full vegetarian menu unlike previous years because we expect to have mainly local guests and as a small society we do not have enough guests to fill a vegetarian season. We will serve a little seafood and shell fish but for sure what is edible at the moment will be served on the menu.” he said.
“This menu is the culmination of all our frustrations of the past months, of our trials and tribultions. And also of the good moments of jumping into cold water or hiking a marathon. It will be reflected in 15-16-17 bites,” he said.