What dish is he most proud of? just one of the questions posed to Rene Redzepi during a Q&A at the S.Pellegrino Trilogy master class at Taste of London.
«Our restaurant life has changed a lot, we are booked a month in advance, we have more than one million requests a year for 22 thousand people. It's really changed, now we can cook truly free, everyone is there to go into the food, into our way of thinking and that is amazing, I have complete freedom to cook what I want.»
This was the Danish Chef's response after being asked how winning best restaurant for two years consecutively at the San Pellegrino world's 50 Best Restaurants had changed his career.
The Nomadic chef has built a strong team in the eight years since opening his restaurant Noma in the heart of Copenhagen. And with one million requests a year for a meal, you may think there was an urge to expand to a new location – a Noma Two perhaps? «We are not opening any new restaurants, I'm happy with the situation and I'm not looking into expanding into an empire, at least not at the moment anyway. The situation we have is a great restaurant with an incredible team and it's a special moment. We're going to build on that and keep on building on that momentum and working for better food in our part of the world.»
«If we were to go somewhere else and open more restaurants, what we're about is exploring that place so there would be so much research that it's going to be very difficult, not impossible, but difficult.»
The difficulty Rene speaks of in trying to transport his style of cooking to another part of the world was explained when he talked about just how his team works: «This is high season where we have a team of around 40. In the next six months we will stock up to 1500 kilos of different food stocks. Now every day we have five to six guys out for eight to ten hours gathering food. Now it's the season of roses. 90 percent of our ingredients come from within 100 kilometers of our restaurant. I don't know if you notice but you have chamomile in Regent's Park - you don't have to travel that far to find food.»
For a man who proclaims to work 90-hour weeks and to have only taken one holiday since opening his restaurant, Rene seems very calm and relaxed. While there's a true passion and a belief in his food, he can't pick a favourite dish: «It's Impossible to answer. It would be like choosing your favorite child, it’s something you can't do.»
And it's this answer that embodies in one simple sentence his true passion for the food he has developed and is still working hard to develop today. «We've been doing this for 8 years and we still don’t know what's out there - there's 1000 edible mushrooms and there's a 159 types of horseradishes. There's so much to explore and so many foods to be found - for a chef, it's a way of extending your vocabulary and then you’ll have more letters to put in a dish, to speak with - it's amazing!»
«The world we are exploring right now is taking all our time, the ingredients, the sourcing, learning the rhythms of nature that's where we are right now.»
It's his ability to see food in this way, using only the best produce, grown by the best local farmers, from only the best seeds. Or finding the freshest wild herbs and somehow managing to express an entire geographical location within the boundaries of a plate that make him and his food so unique. But can it actually be true that one of the best chefs in the world is developing his own Marmite? «Yes it's true, we have brewers yeast coming in, Denmark didn't ban Marmite but there was a health thing we had to check out before we started. I'm a bit obsessed in this umani world so we have a small program where we explore Umami flavours from many parts of the world and from England Marmite is part of it. Although I don't think you'll be seeing marmite on toast in Noma anytime soon.»
Staff shortages are hitting the hospitality sector hard, prompting some restaurants to look outside the industry to train those without restaurant experience for life in the kitchen. Andrew Friedman finds out more.