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Update: It has since been announced that the Noma team will open a restaurant withing the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Tokyo.
When René Redzepi announced to the world via Twitter a few weeks ago that he would be relocating his restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the second place of 2013 World's 50 Best Restaurants list, to Japan - initial thoughts edged towards an elaborate April Fool’s.
However, Redzepi was quick to explain the idea, that it was going to happen for two months at the beginning of 2015 and that it was certainly not a Joke.
This was also followed just days later by the announcement from Heston Blumenthal that he would relocate his Fat Duck restaurant from Bray in the UK to Melbourne, Australia. Redzepi in Japan, Blumenthal in Australia and the Roca Brothers heading on tour in August - is a trend emerging perhaps? Or are chefs just playing out their new path as the rock stars of the 21st century?
To find out more about Noma’s relocation to Japan, we caught up with Redzepi on his recent trip to New York and asked him exactly how the move will work, what he hopes to learn by taking his entire staff to Japan and just how challenging it’s going to be.
Tell us about the move to Japan.
"I’ve always been very inspired by Japan, to me it’s without a doubt the food country, there’s plenty of places where food is magnificent but when you go to Japan it’s just on a different level. Noma is closed for the duration and after we finish the pop-up everyone gets five weeks paid vacation.
"The reason why I want to do this is that I just want to learn. We had to seek out the offers, we don’t have a smashing deal where we can go home and open a new restaurant. We’re going to have to go to place open a restaurant, pay rent, find money for the air fare, but we’re there to learn, it’s like a life experience."
You said you want be taking Noma to Japan in your initial announcement, can you explain what you mean by this?
"It would be silly to take Noma with us in Japan. Why would we bring all those ingredients there when the best from the region are all in Japan. What’s some of the most challenging aspects of the move? Everything. Culturally it’s like going to the other side of the world. Yes we’ll bring in waiters but none of them speak Japanese and there’s 10% of the population that speaks English.
I have to cook with lilly bulbs, I’ve never tried that. There’s so many weird things, everything about it is as difficult as it can be. It would be so much easier if we just went to some place where they speak English, we know the culture, where a carrot is a carrot. Japan is just where I want to be, the food is just too good and the history is just too magnificent and all these traditions that are a thousand years old still feel like they belong in this time."
How was the idea formed?
"I wanted to do this for a few years, then I was thinking, ‘how am I going to do that? I thought maybe I should just stage, like I used to do, like everybody used to do, then I thought ‘I can’t do that, I have a restaurant, I have kids, I can’t just tap out for two months’. That made me depressed thinking, what, so it’s all over now and then I thought f@$k it ‘we’ll all go."
How did the team react?
"You should have seen the staff, I wish I had filmed that. I told them two months before we announced it and people were blown away. We learned about the team bonding at Claridge’s and this will help also."
How will this change Noma?
"I don’t know what I’m hoping for but I think it’s going to change us. I just want to go and see where it takes us, that’s what I want. We have this unique opportunity, the whole staff is behind it, everybody wants to go, it’s going to be difficult, we’re going to work our ass off but you know what, it’s going to be amazing. Technique, approach, inspiration - they have all this rich tradition to build on.
I have a plan with Noma going forward, four or five years from now, where Japan is very important for my future plan - which I can’t tell you about. Something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years about Noma, something I want to do to it and going to Japan is also a part of that".