NOMA – Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine – René Redzepi
Taking a neglected cuisine to the peak
By Robyn Lewis
Noma, as its subtitle describes, is very much a product of place and time, as well as the talent and expertise of Chef René Redzepi, who trained under Spain's Ferran Adria and Thomas Keller of the USA, amongst other culinary luminaries.
In 2010 Redzepi's Danish restaurant Noma catapaulted to Restaurant magazine's World's Best Restaurant and deposed the crown from Heston Blumenthal's English restaurant The Fat Duck, a position which it has retained to 2013.
In this case the unlikely place is Denmark and greater Scandinavia, including Greenland.
Until recently their culinary traditions were not only facing extinction but were derided, viewed rather as we might look at Scottish or northern English cooking at present – relics of a harsh seafaring and agrarian past, rich in time but poor in resources, that have no place in the modern world of fast food, curries or the ubiquitous nature of Mediterranean and French cuisine.
Why? Because it's harder. A lot harder. Take away the tomato, the chilli, a year-round suply of onions, various spices (including pepper), noodles and pasta and many chefs and cooks would founder, if not starve.
René Redzepi took a massive risk, and turned the spartan natural Nordic larder into a point of difference. In Noma he has made it his own.
A Danish food historian, Bi Skaarup, is quoted in the introduction. In her view 'the post-war boom in the export of meat and dairy produce to Britain helped to undermine Danish food culture. All the nice things were rushed over the English Channel, so that the Danes were left with second-class goods.... They were no longer self-sufficient on the farms, either... If you ate your own butter, you would lose the income from selling it.'
Sound familiar? God help us if the best of Australian farm produce all disappears offshore, although it is already happening in some states like Tasmania. There are some lessons to be learnt here, and they are not all cooking.
This book and restuarant is one man and his culinary team's attempt to reverse the perhaps unintended outcome of globalisation: mediocrity and sameness at home, and the all-pervasive 'West Coast USA' cuisine that we now see in places as diverse as Nairobi, Noosa and Wellington, and in many, many cookbooks. Recipes that could be from anywhere. Global beige cuisine.
That this should be accomplished in such a work of art as the book Noma, with many recipes that are also achievable at home (although substitution of your local ingredients will be required; it will certainly test your ingenuity and foraging skills) is testament to the author's huge creativity and style.
Redzepi is a clearly a culinary genius, an artist and communicator of the highest order. Food is his palate, and he uses it well.
Congratulations on being our equal first in VisitVineyards.com's Top 12 Cookbooks of 2010, together with The New Renaissance of Italian Fusion Cuisine 1.0 by Italian chef Gianfranco Chiarini.
NOMA by René Redzepi with photographs by Ditte Isager is published by Phaidon Press (London, UK; hc 38 pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$69.95.
Subscribers and Members of VisitVineyards.com and WinePros Archive can purchase NOMA from our book partners Seekboooks at 12.5% discount here (postage extra).
You can also purchase from Amazon by clicking on the link in the widget below (postage extra).
This introductory article was updated in May 2013.
- Denmark - all (DK)
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