This has been a week of big announcements in the restaurant world. René Redzepi, chef of Noma, announced he would be closing his award-winning restaurant Noma in December 2016 to reopen it as an urban farm. It might not have come as a surprise to those who follow this chef, but it still hit world headlines. A lot has been written but for those who want to know more you can read about it here.
But there was also another surprise announcement about one of the most sought after restaurants in London, Hedone. Chef Mikael Jonsson announced he would be closing his restaurant for 10 days and will reopen it in a completely different format in October.
The new Hedone will have no menu, will have just 22 covers instead of the current 40 and will be open for just six sittings every week.
Jonsson, a lawyer by profession, is a self-trained chef who has risen to be one of the top stars of the international culinary scene over the past years.
Some might consider this to be a PR gimmick but Jonsson’s aim is clear, he wants to feel liberated, to ensure the well-being of his staff and to be able to use more sophisticated techniques.
In fact, the chef is also focusing on one area which has been gaining more attention in recent months, which is the well-being of staff in restaurants. The chef wants to create a work environment that will be more attractive to the staff. He believes that today’s work hours lead to a high turnover. “I want my chefs to come back to work every week rested and full of energy. It is not the case today,” he said. With fewer services, working hours will be more forgiving than those which are the norm in fine dining establishments in the UK.
The Swedish chef worked successfully as a lawyer in Gothenberg, his home country, before relocating to the south of France. Though he was interested in food from a young age, he has been plagued throughout his life with severe food allergies, which meant that a career in the kitchen was impossible. But, in his early forties, he began following a paleolithic diet which caused these allergies to disappear. Jonnson was finally able to do what he has always dreamed of.
An amateur chef with no formal training, he has risen to the height of recognition not only earning recognition from Michelin but also entering the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at 70th position in 2013 and rising to 63rd and then to 60th position this year. When Jonsson had opened the restaurant in Chiswick, London, he had neither lived in the UK nor worked in a professional kitchen before.
The new Hedone will offer its customers the opportunity to experience his restaurant without a menu. Instead, it will be proposing to its customers two different tasting ‘menus’, though neither will be written down. The prices have not yet been set but one will have more exclusive or rare ingredients.
Jonsson believes that this will be an exciting and liberating customised experience for the many returning customers that he and his business partner Aurelie Jean-Marie-Flore cherish.
They are aiming to secure the wow factor that causes regular guests to fly in to London, but this will not be a restaurant for the unadventurous diner.