René Redzepi on creativity, fear and reaching the top
The Noma chef is surprised to have become a star but says he isn't wasting time thinking about his legacy
As René Redzepi's US tour draws to an end, it probably isn't surprising to learn that the chef has been reflecting on his new-found fame. His new three-volume book, A Work In Progress considers, among other things, how reaching the top of the World's 50 Best Restaurants list didn't bring with it the kind of satisfaction some might have expected, and how he might try to rectify this.
Now, over three years on from that first placing in the list, while wrapping up the US tour to promote his new book, he tells the San Francisco Chronicle's Paolo Lucchesi that public speaking still makes him nervous.
When you leave school at age 15 in dishonour and suddenly you’re told to put on a show,” he says, “you can’t help but have that feeling. But you know, at the end of the day, the day that I’m not nervous is the day I don’t care.”
He admits that, while his own position has changed, so has that of chefs more generally. Once, the chances of chef becoming some kind of international cultural icon was “impossible.”
“You could never even dream of it,” he goes on. “Twenty-one years ago when I started in kitchens, it was impossible to think of this stage, with 700 people here, and signing hundreds of books.”
Redzepi credits television with bringing about part of this shift. “TV cooks entered the limelight. Then at one point — I don’t know when it happened, but no more than three, four years ago — the restaurant cook became implemented into pop culture.”
These changes have big implications for restautants more generally, Redzepi believes. “Our trade is becoming less blue-collar,” he says, “and that challenges us to rethink and change our trade for the better.”
Still, he has managed to curb any more outlandish ambitions Noma's success might otherwise have given rise to. And interestingly, does not expect to leave any great legacy behind. “I don’t think anyone will give a s—, unless you’re Gandhi,” he says. “Seriously, people just forget.”
Instead, he's pinning his hopes on more modest goals. “The best situation would be to stay as fun as we’re having now (sic), as creative and intense that we’re now, as good as the food is now, as together as the team is now,” he says. “I would love for that to be able to continue for the next two decades. Then I’ll be a very happy guy.”
We hope so too, René. Read the full piece here, and buy his new book from the people who made it, here.