Noma: ‘A Work in Progress’

My favourite Christmas present this year, outside the gifts given to me by my wife (naturally), was René Redzepi’s ‘A Work in Progress’.  I had already read half of one of the books before we had left my Mother-in-Law’s house on Boxing Day evening.

Redzepi is the co-owner at 3 time ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ Noma in Copenhagen.  This second book to come out of the restaurant is in three parts; a journal, photo book and recipe book.

The journal is an account of one year in the life of Noma, or more specifically Redzepi’s experience of the restaurant over that period.  It is a collection of his thoughts, successes, frustrations and gives a little insight into the creative process that goes into developing dishes.   Unsurprisingly what comes through the clearest is the extreme passion and devotion to the produce and the pressure of doing justice to every element that makes the plate.

It is an interesting read from the perspective of someone who owns a food business.  Now a disclaimer here, I am fully aware that what we do at our little cafe in Harrogate and what Noma do in their kitchens and dining room in Copenhagen are wildly different.  They are incomparably different, and yet glimpses from some of the photos in the accompanying snapshots book reveal there are similarities.

A photo of Noma’s ‘List of Everyday Standards’ shows that even they have to remind chefs to breakdown cardboard boxes and put them in the bin, label food in the fridges correctly and empty the bins.

A list of everyday standards expected of chefs at Noma, Copenhagen.

A photo of a photo. The Kitchen Etiquette at Noma – everyday standards.

In the middle off the year Redzepi writes about what drives him to continue to make changes, that hopefully are improvements, at Noma.  This paragraph in particular struck a chord with me as we are also planning some changes during 2014 that will affect how our service runs and when.  We cannot afford to stand still, we need to push ourselves to do better.  Redzepi says:

“People say it’s crazy – our systems are perfectly in place, the kitchen functions, our guests are happy – we’re even considered the number one restaurant in the world.  ‘Don’t change anything, you idiot’, they say.  But constantly questioning and altering things has become a drug for me.  It’s fuel having to reorganise.  Each time we rework something, it’s as if the previous version of ourselves was only the sketch for the finished canvas that will be Noma.”

I read a blog called Nordic Nibbler, written by a British ex-pat based in Oslo who has written a review of Noma with lots of excellent photos.   I would also recommend the review of Fäviken Magasinet, it looks amazing.  I would warn you though, it is very easy to get lost on this blog as there are so many reviews of great places throughout Scandinavia, London and the world!  The Nordic Nibbler is a lucky man.

If you would like to purchase ‘A Work in Progress’ it is currently available at a 38% discount via Amazon, and if this post has convinced you to buy it then by clicking on our link we will get a few pence from Amazon for our troubles!  Alternatively go directly to Amazon.

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