Noma, one of the world’s top fine-dining restaurants, will close its doors for regular service in Copenhagen at the end of next year as its head chef sounded a warning about the sustainability of the industry.
Famous for dishes such as ants on a shrimp and celeriac shawarma, Noma will become a test kitchen from 2025 while organising the occasional pop-up kitchen and serving guests at its Copenhagen restaurant “when we’ve gathered enough new ideas and flavours”, it said on Monday.
René Redzepi, Noma’s founder and chef, said that despite guests paying DKr5,300 ($760) for food with a wine pairing, it was difficult to make ends meet and pay its almost 100 staff a fair wage.
“We have to completely rethink the industry. This is simply too hard, and we have to work in a different way,” he told the New York Times.
Noma and Copenhagen’s fine-dining scene was shaken by a FT investigation last year that showed widespread abuse of chefs and reliance on unpaid or low-paid labour even as the Danish capital’s restaurants garner more and more Michelin stars.
Redzepi told the NYT that paying interns, something Noma has done since October, has added at least $50,000 a month to its wage bill.
Noma has won the world’s best restaurant award five times, most recently in 2021, when it also gained its third Michelin star.
But it has closed once before, in 2016, with Redzepi taking the restaurant on the road to Mexico, Japan and Australia before opening Noma 2.0 in 2018, as he christened it, based around three “seasons” — seafood, vegetable, and game and forest.
Another previous “world’s best” restaurant, Spain’s El Bulli, closed its doors in 2011.
Noma 3.0 will start in 2025 when its restaurant will become “a giant lab”, a test kitchen “that will share the fruits of our efforts more widely than ever before”. It would still organise pop-ups around the world and later hold a season in Copenhagen.
The restaurant said all staff would be kept on, and that “one of the main reasons we are making this change is so that we can become a more sustainable workplace for our team and for us to grow together”.
Redzepi said the Covid-19 pandemic had forced him to re-evaluate the entire fine-dining business model.
“It’s unsustainable. Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work,” he said.