COPENHAGEN (Reuters Life!) - Danish Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen was crowned the world’s best restaurant in an annual list, toppling famed Spanish restaurant elBulli from the No. 1 slot after four consecutive years.
Below are some comments from Rene Redzepi, the 32 year-old who heads the restaurant, about foraging for ingredients, how he became a chef, the Nordic cuisine his restaurant has put on the gastronomic map, and how he might one day move on.
He was speaking to Reuters during an interview in Copenhagen during last December’s climate change conference.
“Danish people for the most part thought it was a joke...when it comes to food we seem to think that everything south of the border is better than what we have ourselves, and I always used to say it is not better but different.
“There has been a big change in our part of the world now, now you can do whatever you want, you can open a restaurant and say I am only going to do a Danish flat bread restaurant and everyone says ‘that is a good idea’.”
“There is a whole new generation here in this part of the world that just wants to do something else, that wants their own voice, their own language, and it makes sense that the starting point is our products, that we try to use only our own products.”
“We challenge ourselves to create dishes and tastes that you usually wouldn’t. Because if you at some point in the year were to have an ingredient sourcing problem it would be so easy just to take a mango, or piece of foie gras, or go with the evergreens that just work.”
“I think any type of citrus fruit would suit our region extremely well, this very tart acidic-ness, citrus fruits should grow in the Nordic region because it is sharp and it is cleansing. For me it should not be a southern fruit it should be a northern fruit. I brought Yuzu seeds with me back from Kyoto.”
“Most ingredients have been used at one point, whether it was just after the second world war when people ate whatever there was because of no money, or whether it was when people actually had to use everything there was to survive through winter, and therefore pickle and dry.”
“We have a plant which looks like a chive but tastes like Coriander. Obviously this is an incredibly surprising flavor and a huge discovery, that suddenly you have cilantro flavor in our part of the world. It was just chance. We just eat things.
“If you work a lot with products you can see what looks succulent, if you just put it in your mouth and you bite a little bit, usually nothing happens.”
“You can’t cook seal or whale or all these things, and I don’t cook eel, I don’t cook cod. Products like that which are disappearing. If we had bluefin tuna in our part (of the world) I would never cook that either.”
“I had no idea that I would be cooking. One of my friends started catering school so I thought ‘OK I’ll start that’, and then on the second day of school there was a competition where you will be judged on taste and appearance. And you know when you are at that age, your biggest decision is whether to play soccer that afternoon, but for some reason I took it very seriously.”
“It was really like a major thing for me that I had to take a stand point toward what do I like, what do I want to show, what do I want to cook, what is it that I actually like about food. And since then I have never been in doubt.”
“(I cooked) Chicken and cashew nuts. But imagine this is 17 years ago ... We came second. There was a guy who was already trained as a butcher, he was older, he did like a ham salad, and they loved it.”
“This is our time right now. We have a window, we have broken through in a part of the world that doesn’t usually break through with anything. It is like there is an information wall somewhere in northern Germany where most information from the north just stops, and sometimes there is a crack.
“Apart from design. But everything else is just so difficult to break through on a bigger scale. So it is not time to take it easy and travel for pleasure it is time to see if we can exploit this window and make sure that the year and a half, perhaps two years of opening we have ensures that we are put on the map for sure, not just as a little fashion thing, that we actually become a part of the international gastronomic map.”
“I am young, I don’t see myself being here in the next 40 years, not at all. I think that would be boring. I have no problems whatsoever (with leaving one day).”
“One of the worst things that could happen to me with this place is that I just keep going and going and all inspiration is gone, and the autopilot is switched on, and it happens to any place at one point. Its still there. But I always told myself that once that happens, then it is time to leave.”
Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison, Editing by Paul Casciato