René Redzepi’s new urban farm which is set to open soon after the closure of the award-winning Noma will be a complete re-invention of the concept of a restaurant using three distinct seasons to showcase a true reflection of the landscape of that moment and the unique flavour of that point in time.
The Danish chef has launched a video to explain the decision behind the closure of the restaurant (which we would urge you to watch).
But if you don’t have nine minutes, then read on to find out why Redzepi has decided to close Noma and build something from scratch.
“It has taken us a long time to figure it out. We had been planning for the change for years. We are moving into an incredible new space as we continue to build our community and figure out what it means to be a cook in this region. To keep exploring food and flavor, in a new place where we can dream. A place where we can build a farm right in the city. Where we can grow our own food, a place where we can keep pushing.”
Redzepi says that he and his team have spent the last 12 years trying to figure out what it means to be a chef in the Nordic region and now they are ready to start the restaurant they have been practicing for.
He says that they realised that they had been organising the menus and even working methods in a stupid and impractical way. “We live in a region where the seasons change dramatically from barren cold to warm abundance, yet our restaurant and the menu format more or less stay the same. We haven’t been able to transform as dramatically as the weather does; at least until now. We’ve made the decision to change the restaurant along with three very distinct seasons.”
The new restaurant will turn into a fish restaurant in the cold months of January, February, March, and April. This is the time when the ground can be rock solid from frost, nothing grows. “Very little from the earth is available, and so we will turn to the ocean. At that moment, most fish are at their pinnacle of quality, the flesh firm and pristine, many of them fat with roe, the other innards sweet and succulent. The diversity of shellfish is incredible. Urchins are plump, the ovaries the color of a ripe orange. Wild oysters are hand harvested alongside all the other wonders of the water season. A meal based around such rich proteins will be shorter, enhanced with our well-stocked larder, those hardy plants that survive the frost, and our own greenhouse. The cutlery, the platewear, every element will reflect an aesthetic of the cold ocean.”
The menu will change in spring as the world turns green. “We will slowly organise the kitchen to reflect the incredible diversity from the plant kingdom, resulting in smaller servings, but more of them, a steady stream of the cooked and raw vegetation coming from all sides. In May, June, July, August, and into September, we will become a vegetarian restaurant. Our community of farmers and foragers will be central to this green season, but the new restaurant will be nestled in our own urban farm, and we will grow a significant amount of our own produce.”
Redzepi asks how they will make a plateful of steamed spinach as satisfying as a steak? “Through the work done in that half-kitchen, half-mad-laboratory, we have enough potions, liquids, and new flavors that can lift even the simplest carrot to become the star of our menu.”
The next change is when the leaves start falling from the trees and our focus shifts toward the forest: the cornucopia of mushrooms, nuts, and berries, coupled with the best of the game. During the end of September, October, November, and December the menu again condenses, maybe organized around whichever game animal might be the centerpiece of the meal.
What does local mean?
Redzepi says that for many years he was wrestling with the very definition of the word local. “I mean, where do we even draw the borders of the Nordic region? Does it make sense to include Greenland, on the other side of the Atlantic, but not somewhere close with the same climate like Scotland? Do we include Hamburg, which was on the border of Denmark in the nineteenth century? Is it about the type of vegetation that grows, or the political climate of the moment? And what about chocolate, coffee, and wine? I knew I wanted all of those, but they come far from any place Nordic. And how do we consider potatoes, which were introduced from Peru but are now entrenched in modern Scandinavian food? What about pickles from India? How far back in history does one go to be “authentic?” It’s clear that in the world of cooking we haven’t fully understood many of the labels that define us.”