Culinary Journeys

Copenhagen's Noma: 10 ways it changed the world of food

Qin Xie, CNNUpdated 11th July 2017
(CNN) — When Noma sent out its last plates of white chocolate-covered moss at the end of February 2017, it was the end of an era.
For many, it was one of the most influential restaurants of the last decade, changing the face of gastronomy around the world and especially in the Nordic region. Now, after almost 14 years in its water-facing warehouse, this iconic restaurant has closed its doors for the very last time. At least, in its current interpretation and location.
It's set to return, a sort of Noma 2.0, at the end of 2017 -- a whole new concept with whole new rules. Before chef patron Rene Redzepi and his team usher in their new era, here's a look at 10 ways they've already changed the world of fine dining.

1. Nordic food identity

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Noma's greatest contribution was perhaps through the creation of New Nordic cuisine.
In 2004, Redzepi was among a group of chefs and journalists who designed the New Nordic Food Manifesto -- a document that was meant to revolutionize the region's food and shape its identity.
Doctrines were drawn up around ethics, sustainability and quality. Those who signed onto this way of thinking started working with a bigger focus on local and seasonal produce.
Journalist and Parabere Forum founder Maria Canabal told CNN: "They (Noma) have changed the Nordic gastronomy forever. They were able to put the light in the Nordic terroir and its treasures."

2. Chefs in the dining room

Redzepi also changed the identity of the chef -- they were no longer constrained to the kitchen and the stove. Instead, they went into the dining room to serve their dishes to guests -- a move that "broke barriers" according to chef Eneko Atxa.
Atxa's own restaurant, three Michelin-starred Azurmendi in Spain (Legina Auzoa, s/n, 48195 Larrabetzu, Vizcaya, Spain; +34 944 55 88 66), has adopted this philosophy in part -- guests are led through a "greenhouse" by chefs as part of the dining experience.
In Copenhagen, it's now embraced by several of the city's best restaurants, including Noma alumnus Christian F. Puglisi's Relae (Jægersborggade 41, 2200 Copenhagen; +45 3696 6609), Søren Ledet (ex-Noma) and Rasmus Kofoed's three Michelin-starred Geranium (Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8., DK-2100 Copenhagen; +45 6996 0020) and Nicolai Nørregaard's Kadeau (Wildersgade 10b, 1408, Copenhagen; +45 3325 2223)

3. Foraging

Let's be clear -- foraging is far from a new phenomenon, and Noma is certainly not the only restaurant to put free fodder on its menu; but Redzepi has undoubtedly spearheaded its popularity.
After a foraging campaign that covered everywhere from Lapland to Finland, dubbed the era of "I foraged with Rene Redzepi" by the Eater website, Noma's reputation for leading the charge was cemented. And a slew of chefs followed. The trickled-down trend is still quite alive in the form of urban foraging for the everyman.

4. Fine dining

From granting a dying man's wish to egos in the culinary world, Rene Redzepi answers your questions. And nothing is off the table.
Chefs in the dining room, weeds on the table and the disappearance of white, starched tablecloths all called for the end of fine dining as we know it.
Food writer and consultant Poonperm Paitayawat tells CNN: "The kitchen of Noma made a lot of politically impactful choices and led the movement of regionalist gastronomy.
"They picked monkfish liver instead of foie gras; they picked weeds instead of importing beautifully cultivated herbs. They also decided on celebrating the Nordic, instead of being vaguely innovative."
All this, according to Eneko Atxa, changed "the way to understand luxury," particularly for young chefs.

5. Fermentation

Fermentation was billed a major food trend in 2016, even though the technique has long been a part of global culinary traditions. But while many restaurants focused on using the freshest possible ingredients, Noma has been delving into the world of preserving and creating weird but lovable ingredients like peaso (similar to miso but made from fermented peas).
Suddenly, fermented menus were daring and cool.
A notable example is Kadeau in Copenhagen where preserved elements can be found throughout its menu.

6. Insects

The British press were shocked and surprised when Noma popped up in London and served up live ants in 2012.
Ants were on the Noma menu to the last -- a week before the restaurant closed, a slightly crunchy coin of wood ants (dead this time) provided the citrus note to the birch ice cream dessert. They also appeared earlier in the menu, sprinkled over some "leaves."
There's been much talk of insects replacing meat as protein in recent years and despite the uproar about its plausibility in the Western world, it has quietly arrived on the menu at some of the more avant-garde restaurants.
In London, wood ants are used for flavor at Nordic Asian restaurant Flat Three (120-122 Holland Park Avenue, London; +44 207 792 8987)
The insect movement continued via the Nordic Food Lab, a not-for-profit research hub that Redzepi launched in 2008.
One of its past projects was recipes featuring insects, the result of which will appear in a forthcoming cookbook. But perhaps more importantly, the research focuses on food from the Nordic region, which can only mean a stronger regional culinary identity in the future.

7. Juice pairings with food

A juice pairing has been available at Noma for almost a decade, and now it's finally catching on around the world. It's offered instead of or alongside wines and features a blend of ingredients designed to match the food. A dish containing rose notes might be paired with a juice featuring rose oil, for example.
Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre in Singapore (41 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore; +65 6534 8880) has been developing fermented juices to pair with his nouvelle French dishes, building on the offering seen in haute restaurants in Europe.
More recently, Noma alumnus James Knappett has been experimenting with juice pairings at his London restaurant, Kitchen Table (70 Charlotte Street, London; +44 20 7637 7770).

8. Collaborative dinners

Actually, Redzepi is not exactly known for collaborative dinners. What he has been responsible for is bringing some of these chefs together in the first place.
Noma hosted the first Cook It Raw in 2009, a project founded by Alessandro Porcelli with the aim of getting chefs to meet, discuss and collaborate.
Redzepi went on to create Mad Symposium, an annual event that connected chefs with producers, journalists, academics and anyone else who had interesting things to say about food. And in 2013, he participated in Gelinaz, a Cook It Raw spin-off from Andrea Petrini that's since become a regular series of boundary-pushing events featuring some of the world's best chefs.

9. The layout of the kitchen

Most Western restaurant kitchens are based on the classic French layout, featuring savory and sauce sections with pastry (desserts) relegated to the side.
A redesign of the Noma kitchen in 2013 meant that the sections have bled into each other, with the possibility of multiple hands plating up the same dishes. The change, according to Redzepi, meant "we're much more together as a team now."

Social enterprise

Redzepi is no stranger to philanthropy.
Some of the much sought-after seats at the Sydney Noma pop-up were auctioned for charity, for example.
At the restaurant's closing party in February, Redzepi announced that he was giving away a percentage of his new restaurant to long-serving members of his team, including the restaurant's dish washer, Ali Sonko, who will become a partner of Noma 2.0.
And while the team are in Mexico for their sold-out pop-up, they are offering culinary students the opportunity to enjoy the US$600 experience completely free during the last two weeks of their residency.
Further, Mexican culinary students will also have the opportunity to apply for internships at Noma with the cost of their travel and accommodation, plus a stipend, completely covered. This might just spark a whole generation of Nordic Mexican cuisine.