Noma moved to a new location in Copenhagen in 2018./Photography courtesy of Shutterstock.
The famed chef and restaurateur René Redzepi said Monday his restaurant Noma will close to the public and be transformed into “a giant lab” dedicated to food innovation.
The move, however, which was announced via Instagram post, is scheduled for 2025, allowing for the restaurant to serve its three seasonal menus—vegetable, forest and ocean—through the end of 2024.
In the post, Redzepi said it’s not the end for the three-Michelin-starred concept, which has topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list five times. Rather, it’s a new beginning.
“Serving guests will always be a part of who we are, but being a restaurant will no longer define us,” wrote Redzepi. “From 2025, our restaurant will no longer exist in its current form. Instead, we will pop up in different parts of the world—including Copenhagen—while focusing more time on innovation and product development.
“We are by no means closing,” the chef added. “On the contrary, we will share our innovations and ideas more widely than ever before.”
Redzepi also notes that all of the team will be a part of the next chapter. In fact, he contends the move is designed to create a more sustainable workplace.
Redzepi told The New York Times that the math of compensating nearly 100 workers fairly, while maintaining high standards, at prices the market will bear, is not workable.
“We have to completely rethink the industry,” he told The New York Times. “This is simply too hard, and we have to work in a different way.”
Noma 3.0 will offer team members an opportunity to diversify skills or narrow them down to a specific area they feel passionate about, he wrote on Instagram. “The sky is the limit here.”
Last year, the restaurant launched a new platform dubbed Noma Projects, channeling two decades of research and development into new products and flavors, like bottled smoked mushroom garum, a liquid seasoning sold online for $24 per bottle alongside a bottled Forager’s Vinaigrette ($35) and Wild Rose Vinegar ($30).
It’s not the first time Noma has reinvented itself.
Founded in 2003 in Copenhagen, Noma forged worldwide interest in what became known as New Nordic Cuisine, focusing on simplicity, local ingredients and hyper seasonality, and redefining the white-tablecloth-style of fine dining. The restaurant soon became mentioned in the same breath as haute dining concepts like El Bulli and The French Laundry, with multi-course tasting menus reaching prices in the thousands of dollars with wine.
In 2016, Redzepi closed the original Copenhagen location and relocated the team to Tulum, Mexico for a popup. In 2018, the restaurant was reborn as Noma 2.0 with a new location in Copenhagen and a farm serving the restaurant. That move allowed the restaurant to make the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant list a fifth time, though it has been ineligible to make the list again under the current iteration.
Noma is among a number of very high-end restaurants that have closed or looked for reinvention.
Some, like the elite Willows Inn on Lummi Island in Bellingham, Wash., closed last year following reports of sexual harassment and wage theft. Blaine Wetzel, the chef who operated Willows Inn, is a Noma alum.
Others see opportunity with more casual projects.
Manresa, for example, David Kinch’s three-Michelin-starred concept in Los Gatos, Calif., closed for good on Jan. 1 after 20 years—with guest chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se joining the kitchen for the last week of service. Kinch is continuing his more casual concepts, including The Bywater, Mentone and Manresa Bread.
Redzepi has been fairly public about his own “spiritual journey,” according to The New York Times, which has included moving away from the “rageful, mercurial and workaholic” reputation he had when he first opened Noma.
Movies like “The Menu,” and series like “The Bear” and “Boiling Point” have drawn attention to the sometimes abusive environments of high-end kitchens.
Noma alums, for example, describe a culture of 16-hour days and low or no pay. The restaurant didn’t pay interns until October 2022. One intern from 2017 described spending her days making beetles made of fruit leather, saying she was required to work in silence and forbidden to laugh.
Redzepi, however, indicated the changes coming will foster a new culture.
“I hope we can prove to the world that you can grow old and be creative and have fun in the industry,” he told The New York Times. “Instead of hard, grueling low-paid work under poor management conditions that wears people out.“
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