René Redzepi chooses snow for his Desert Island
The Noma chef requests a single day of wintry conditions as his luxury on the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs
Noma, the World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s top choice for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, is distinguished not only by its local ingredients and Scandinavian recipes, but also by its music policy. As the founder and Phaidon author, René Redzepi, explained during his appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, when he installed a speaker system in the restaurant’s kitchen a few years ago, listening to music while you worked was looked down on. “If you had music in your kitchens you were just a little café or something,” he tells host Kirsty Young. Yet, as with so many other unconventional working practices the chef has tried, this risk paid off.
Among the seven record he wished to have with him were he shipwrecked on desert island, was the 1989 single, One, by the US heavy metal band Metallica, which Redzepi says wakes his cooks up on sleepy mid-morning shifts; as well as the Mexican folk tune, Linda Nena by Juaneco Y Su Combo, to remind him of his favourite holiday destination; The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas; Run DMC’s It’s Like That, the chef’s first taste of hip-hop; Phantom of the Opera by Iron Maiden – Redzepi says the Danish record store clerk attempted to palm him off with a copy of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical of the same name; Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie; Spitting Blood by the Mancunian band Wu Lyf; and the prog meets electro pop classic Autobahn by Kraftwerk.
Music tastes aside, Redzepi shared quite a few great biographical details, including his somewhat ignoble exit from secondary school – after the age of fourteen he was asked not to return – as well as a slightly wayward adolescence - “there were a few years when I was very interested in weed,” he says.
There’s a lot about his bucolic summer holidays in his father’s homeland of Macedonia, as well as a little bit about the civil war in the former Yugoslavia that brought these vacations to an abrupt end. He talks through his thoughts on luxury, comparing mass-market caviar to rare, woodland mushrooms; and his father’s attitude towards the restaurant – though pleased by his son’s success, Redzepi senior ”grew up eating the same pot of beans every day” and so isn’t a huge fan of his son’s creations.
Yet it’s his request for a single luxury to make life on a desert island more bearable, that demonstrate's Redzepi's genius. He wished for a single day of wintry weather each year, to remind him of home. Adding snow to a well-known desert island? That’s the kind of ingredient we’ve come to expect from the Noma chef.
Listen to the full show either via the BBC website, or on iTunes; and to gain a richer understanding of the chef’s work and creative impulses consider his books, A Work In Progress and Noma, both available from the people who made them, here.