World-renowned restaurant Noma to close, citing ‘unsustainable’ model

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Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that racked up three Michelin stars and the mantle of “world’s best restaurant” for its wildly influential cuisine, will close in 2024.

Chef and founder René Redzepi said the intensive amount of labor required to produce the restaurant’s signature hyperlocal and painstakingly crafted dishes — much of which fell to interns and lower-paid workers — is no longer sustainable. “Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work,” he told the New York Times, which first reported the planned closure.

The restaurant will eventually morph into a “giant lab” that will host pop-ups and/or temporarily open for a season, as well as develop products for the company’s e-commerce arm. “Serving guests will still be a part of who we are, but being a restaurant will no longer define us,” read a note to customers on the restaurant’s website hailing the new incarnation as Noma 3.0. “Instead, much of our time will be spent on exploring new projects and developing many more ideas and products.”

Sea snail broth and kelp ice cream: The new Noma tastes like the future

Established in 2003, Noma was initially dismissed by some critics as a “blubber restaurant” for relying on Nordic ingredients, but it quickly drew acclaim, hailed as the creator of a spare but exciting “New Nordic” cuisine. It was named the world’s best restaurant five times in the past 11 years and was awarded a third Michelin star — the province of only a handful of restaurants across the globe — in 2021. The price tag, for those quick-fingered enough to score a reservation, is at least $500 a head.

Dining there was as much about the experience as the food, which included reindeer and foraged greens. The restaurant is set amid wild gardens and greenhouses with rooms devoted to barbecue and fermentation. The 40-seat dining room might be decorated with fish skeletons or dried seaweed; multicourse meals end with the presentation of a menu.

Over the years, it morphed several times. It went dark in 2015 for a five-week pop-up in Tokyo, and again a year later for stints in Sydney and Tulum, Mexico. It reopened in 2018 in Copenhagen, with The Washington Post’s restaurant critic Tom Sietsema declaring the new iteration “a rare chance to hang with a true visionary.”

“It soon becomes apparent that we’re eating the future, so influential is Redzepi’s thought process that his dishes are copied at the speed of the internet by chefs around the world,” Sietsema wrote.

Tom Sietsema’s fall dining guide

During the pandemic, it shuttered and temporarily reopened as a spot for burgers and wine served at picnic tables.

Redzepi and his operation have come under scrutiny, including for their reliance on unpaid “stagiaires” (Noma reportedly began paying them in October). The chef himself admitted in a 2015 essay that he had been a bully of a boss who had yelled and “pushed people,” and since then has said that he has done therapy to deal with his anger.

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