What we learned from Redzepi’s Reddit interview
The Noma founder on why he's becoming interested in native American food, how Gordon Ramsay hated Noma and why you should never eat anything from the forest unless you know what it is (or you're a masochist)
For a star chef the Noma founder Rene Redzepi is remarkably down-to-earth. His Copenhagen restaurant may have been voted the world’s best in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014, yet Redezpi is always charmingly frank when it comes to discussing his own failings and shortcomings.
Redzepi submitted to Reddit’s Ask Me Anything interview format yesterday. The online Q&A allows users to post questions, which the interviewee then answers in real time. It’s a great way of generating both unusual questions and some wonderfully candid answers.
For instance, as Redzepi reveals, foraging isn’t as simple as it sounds. “Every year when the foraging season starts I'll have a couple of moments where I eat some strange stuff that will fuck up my stomach pretty bad,” explained the chef. “Don't ever eat something in the forest if you don't know what it is, unless you're a masochist and enjoy cascades of vomiting and diarrhoea.”
He also enthused about his newfound appreciation for Mexico. “Mexican cuisine to me is on par with the 'classic' greats – French, Japanese, Italian,” he wrote, “but unfortunately it's often viewed instead as quick, cheap eats.”
Interestingly, Redzepi praised an underexplored aspect of US gastronomy. When asked where diners might find the closest thing to Noma in North America, Redzepi replied, “I'd have to say that it's probably Willow's Inn on Lummi Island. Not just Blaine [Wetzel, founder chef] worked here but because he's tapping into the Native American knowledge bank, which I personally think is an untapped resource.”
He was less hopeful when it came to another undercapitalised source of nourishment. “It’s gonna take decades for us in the west to accept insects on the same level as steak,” he reckoned. “One thing that's happening simultaneously though is the idea of eating your trash - what I mean is that we will be finding ways to totally eradicate waste from food.”
Trash and bugs aside, Redzepi also offered a little professional advice, suggesting that in order to keep staff happy in a kitchen, chefs should follow one particular rule. “Don't start shouting!” he advised. “It doesn't do anything good to your team or anybody else. Find a way to get your message through without being a fucking asshole.”
If that instruction contrasts with the public image of another famous chef, then it won’t surprise you to learn that Gordon Ramsay is not a Noma fan. Ramsay has dined at Noma, and “he hated it,” Redzepi revealed, “but he was nice about it.”
When it comes to amateur cooks, René also had some suggestions for those wanting to recreate the spirit of Noma in his or her kitchen. “I think what we do is about the cuisine of where you are,” he wrote. “That's do-able for anybody! Follow the seasons, seek out a farm and cook what they offer. Follow the rhythms of the year and you're halfway there.”
There was plenty more advice too, including where else is good to eat in Copenhagen at the moment, what he thinks of Michelin stars and which dish a guy should cook to impress the ladies.
You can read the whole thing here, and for greater insight into Rene’s life, work and recipes, consider our books: Noma and A Work In Progress; you can also read more of his restaurant recommendation in our new edition of Where Chefs Eat.