René Redzepi, noma, Copenhagen

The Staff Canteen


René Redzepi, chef patron of Noma, the legendary Danish restaurant, is this month's featured chef.

I'm sat on sun lounger in the Kempinski Hotel in Bansko drinking the first espresso of the day when an e-mail arrives from "Yes" I shout! "What's happened?" the rest of the family ask. "René Redzepi - the world's most famous chef has agreed to be on The Staff Canteen!" At that point our noma journey begins.


What can you say, write or film that has not already been said, written or recorded on either René or Noma?  Unless you've been living in a cave it's almost impossible to escape both of them, and the effect each is having in so many ways across the industry. It would seem that every chef now is a forager, whilst restaurants are removing their tablecloths for a stripped back look. Of course, this is just a small part of the "noma effect" as I've heard it called on many occasions. 

We are seeing more chefs working in harmony with Mother Nature

We are seeing more chefs working in harmony with Mother Nature, chefs are sourcing more local and sustainable foods and are thinking about the environmental impact from food miles - all are fundamental to the noma ethos and all a very good thing for certain. We wanted to understand more about René himself, the restaurant, the culture and the team that make this, now global, name function each and every day under the scrutiny and glare of the worlds media. noma, a restaurant fully booked long in advance for both lunch and dinner, with diners from all around the world waiting up to three months for a coveted table.

Noma has been voted The World's Best Restaurant for two consecutive years in the "Worlds 50 Best Restaurants, displacing one of René's former employers El Bulli and awarded 2 Michelin stars and countless other awards. What is it about noma that makes it so successful?

We arrive at 2:30pm and there, situated on the w aterfront to the far left of the North Atlantic House stands noma. Christianshavn, the former warehouse that had served as a major part of Denmark's north Atlantic sea trade history, where for some 200 years, it was used to house Whale oil and skin, salted Herring and dry fish, which I'm told, even today, makes the render of plaster to the restaurant walls almost 


impossible, with them having to be done annually as it simply slips down the interior walls. We are met by the excellent Caroline whose help and complete professionalism cannot be underplayed in our noma project.

We are shown to The Staff Room - a long r oom above the restaurant which looks out across the waterfront, a well lit room used for meetings during the day and a private dining room for dinner. On the wall of The Staff Room is a dry wipe board that would really not look out of place in a science lab. Various ingredients are linked through marker pen curves drawn free hand in what looks like a formulation of a food experiment which later we discover is the development and planning of the restaurants new "Starters".

Just across from The Staff Room is the production kitchen where lines of chefs pick herbs, cut and dice, whilst The Red Hot Chilli Peppers "By the Way" pumps out from the internal sound system ensuring that many of the chefs engaged in mis en place, are either tapping their feet or singing along. The staff at are multi cultural; Danes, Norwegians, Brits, Australians, Americans and more, many   of this team are stagier's. The common communication language here is English and the music is loud and changes to 80's Rock-a-Billy as we introduce ourselves to the team.

Through the double doors of the production kitchen is the development kitchen, a stunning opportunity with the latest induction units, under counter refrigeration and inbuilt above the counter ovens. This is, as the name would suggest, is where much, if not all, those ideas, concepts and developments are born, raised then implemented. Nothing stands still at noma and this room feels like the nucleus of that continual energy to create, understand and improve. Across from the development kitchen is the staff dining room where in true canteen style rows of tables and chairs lie in waiting for meal times. Everyone at noma eats together, even René - there is a great feeling of togetherness. It really is one team 


working together for a shared goal. This is a family and I wonder now, post interview, how much of Rene's life in Macedonia is behind this culture.

We venture outside where a number of small wooden huts house a range of barbecues, green eggs and open coal fires, as Chef's char and grill varying vegetables many of which are juiced for the menu that day. The main kitchen is open plan but small. The chefs here are on show through the glass windows that separate their cookery arena from the dining guest. However this is noma, where many of the dishes are served by the chefs interacting directly with the guests, who themselves are encouraged to be hands on during their meal. Adjoining the main kitchen but not on show is the pastry kitchen, a space that is to my eye almost as big as the main kitchen itself and full of chefs in full swing.

We walk back up the wrought iron staircase to The Staff Room where at 3:00pm, René arrives from service. Bearded and adjusting his apron, he's looking tired which we understand later is because of his children's sleep patterns and no doubt long hours. René welcomes us to noma takes a seat and looks out across the harbour. After we introduce the film crew we start to run through a brief of our questions "So you are The Staff Canteen from England?" he asks "Yes" we reply "let's just talk" he says, so we do. Watch our interview......soon!

By Mark Morris


Photographs by kind permission of Ditte Isager.


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th November 2011

René Redzepi, noma, Copenhagen