Singaporean chef Kenneth Foong, 31, has been appointed to one of the most coveted roles in gastronomy, head chef at Noma, Copenhagen.
As reported by CNA Lifestyle, Foong, who joined the Noma team full-time nine months ago, has replaced former head chef, Canadian Benjamin Ing, as the head of Rene Redzepi’s famous kitchen.
Describing what it’s like to work at Noma, the chef said: “The intensity and energy of the place is palpable. It’s almost electric – you can feel it in the air. It scares some, but for the individuals that thrive off that energy, they just lean in and soak it all up. I am one of those.”
From day one, Foong saw Noma was different. “People were sprinting, literally, from the start of their day up to the point they were leaving the restaurant,” he said. “It was amazing. The pace of service was blistering – dishes were leaving the kitchen so quickly that diners never had the opportunity to pull out their phones or sometimes even get up for the restroom. As a professional, it is almost impossible to comprehend the operation without actually being there.”
For the Singaporean, the appointment represents a vindication of the risk he took in quitting his job as head chef at Cure in Singapore to take up an internship at Noma two years ago.
Foong trained at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, began his career at Restaurant Andre, and worked at EMP, as well as Michelin-starred Betony, before returning to Singapore in 2016.
In his new role running Noma's service kitchen, Foong will work with Jason White, director of fermentation; and Mette Soberg, head of research and development for the test kitchen, overseen by co-owner Redzepi.
“It was a huge decision and, at least for me, extremely daunting to take on a role that has only been held by a handful of industry legends who have since gone forth and done amazing things in their own right,” he told CNA Lifestyle.
“Growing up in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter, you would not be faulted for thinking that the best restaurants, globally, were euro-centric restaurants run by white chefs. It would have been very strange to think that an individual like myself would be able to find an opportunity like the one I am in,” he said.
The first day of the Grand Final of the Bocuse d'Or took place on Sunday, September 26th and streamed live on Fine Dining Lovers. Here's a round-up of the action. Stay with us as day two is streamed here too.
Now a three-Michelin-star restaurant, Noma has changed, but not necessarily on the plate. According to Kenneth Foong, it's all about the way the team works, which is closer to a tech company than a traditional restaurant. Read our exclusive interview with Noma's head chef.