Why is Noma, the 'world's best restaurant', closing in Copenhagen at the end of 2024?

The famed destination has come under scrutiny for its treatment of foreign workers and unpaid interns

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After 20 years and numerous "best restaurant" awards, the founder of the three-Michelin-starred fine-dining destination Noma has revealed he will be shutting it down at the end of 2024.

Rene Redzepi, the famed Danish chef behind the restaurant, known for its $500 per person tasting menu, has told The New York Times that the high standards required to produce the restaurant’s labour-intensive cuisine was just not workable anymore.

“We have to completely rethink the industry,” he said. “This is simply too hard, and we have to work in a different way."

Opened in 2003 in Copenhagen, Noma's interpretation of Nordic cuisine, as well as its innovative eco-conscious menu based on foraging seasonal ingredients, soon became a huge hit. It has since topped the World's 50 Best Restaurants list a record five times and was ranked the World's Best Restaurant four times by Restaurant magazine. In 2021, Noma received its third Michelin star.

Noma staff at work in the kitchen in Copenhagen. AFP

But in the past few years, the restaurant has come under scrutiny for its treatment of foreign workers, as well as its reliance on unpaid interns, according to The New York Times, who interviewed a number of past staff members.

One former intern referred to Noma as a "toxic work environment" alleging that she was required to work in silence by the junior chefs she assisted and was specifically forbidden to laugh.

Redzepi, 45, told the newspaper that the ongoing allegations were not a factor in his decision to close the restaurant.

“It’s unsustainable,” he said. "Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work."

Noma, he said, will instead become a full-time food laboratory, developing new dishes and products for its e-commerce operation, Noma Projects. The dining rooms will be open for periodic pop-ups, he added.

"To continue being Noma, we must change," the restaurant posted on Instagram on Monday. "Therefore, dear guests and friends, we have some exciting news to share. Winter 2024 will be the last season of Noma as we know it. We are beginning a new chapter; Noma 3.0. We hope you’ll join us on this new journey."

Updated: January 10, 2023, 5:02 AM
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