Noma’s Farming Revolution

René Redzepi is ready to convert his restaurant to an urban farm

Noma, the universally acclaimed, award-winning restaurant in Copenhagen and arguably one of the best restaurants in the world, will serve its last course on 31 December 2016 and shut the doors of its long-time location.  

But not forever: René Redzepi, the godfather of the culinary revolution from Northern Europe, better known as New Nordic Food, has been secretly working these past few years to revolutionise his restaurant with a new menu and a new mission. Albeit his approach to cooking stands apart because of his pioneering and introduction of fermentation, foraging and cooking with insects, the new project is no less challenging. Ambitious but fully aware of the risk involved, Redzepi, after 12 years of leading the kitchen of Noma, has decided to get started with a revolutionary urban farming project because, as he says himself, “It makes sense to have your own farm, as a restaurant of this calibre”.

So with any luck, Noma will be reopening for business in 2017 just a few kilometres outside the city’s rebellious and creative Christiania neighbourhood. The new Noma will rise from the ruins of an abandoned building with street art covering the walls standing on the edge of a lake. If nothing else, the project is innovative: on this weed-tangled lot, for now the only features are a few abandoned warehouses: “all the asphalt will be transformed into fresh soil and used as a field for crops.”  Plans include greenhouses and hanging gardens for the restaurant’s roof. Some of the produce will be grown on a farm that floats. This challenging and ambitious objective is inspired by Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant in Pocantico Hills, New York, which is supplied by his working farms in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Organic revolution is everywhere you look, but especially on the menu: René Redzepi and his team were already accustomed to working with the scarce bounty of Scandinavia’s stingy earth but now they intend to make bolder strides.  For the past 3 years they have been developing dishes that tie in more closely with the seasons and plan to push the boundaries of seasonal ingredients.  Redzepi wants nature to be guide in the kitchen of the new Noma, abandoning the predictability of tasting menus and delivering a burst of personal creative energy to the concept of 5-star cooking. 

This is why the kitchen will serve wild game, wild berries, mushrooms and leafy greens in autumn; in winter, when the ground is covered with snow and all the trees are bare, the menu will feature North Sea fish, laden with eggs, and its harvest of seafood; in spring and summer, when nature explodes with green and then bursts into colour, the kitchen will rely on its garden and become fully vegetarian. 

In the meantime, Redzepi is losing no time, flying his staff to Japan to open a temporary restaurant and later repeating the experiment in Australia. Until April 2016, Noma has relocated to Sydney, Australia, to see how to vary the menu based on available seasonal ingredients. The “dramatic evolution”, as Redzepi terms it, has begun. Moreover, even revolutions should sometimes be appreciated at the table. 

Watch René Redzepi here as he explains his plans:

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