With Noma closing in Copenhagen, UAE chefs react to new plans for restaurant's future

Noma 3.0 will take the form of a test kitchen dedicated to developing innovative flavours

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Often hailed as one of the best restaurants in the world, Noma in Copenhagen announced it will shut down operations at the end of next year, citing financial and emotional pressure. However, Danish restaurateur Rene Redzepi has no plans of hanging up his chef’s hat just yet.

Redzepi promises to introduce Noma 3.0 in 2025, in the form of a “pioneering test kitchen dedicated to the work of food innovation and the development of new flavours”.

This, according to F&B industry experts, is exciting and revolutionary. “We are very excited for the new iteration of Noma,” William Drew tells The National. Drew is the director of content at 50 Best, the award-conferring body that oversees restaurant ranking lists around the globe, including one for the Mena region. Noma has been named the top venue in the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list five times.

"Since its opening, Noma has constantly evolved. After topping the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list four times, it began a journey of exploration with extended pop-ups in different locations around the globe.

“It then reinvented itself in a new location in Copenhagen, with a different structure, dining concept and menu format — and proceeded to top the World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking once again in 2021.

“At the same time, it has developed complementary projects outside of, but related to, the restaurant itself. Rene Redzepi and his team are so tireless in moving things forward that it’s no surprise to see them seek to reimagine Noma entirely,” adds Drew.

The Copenhagen restaurant is also the rare recipient of three Michelin stars. The restaurant, which opened in 2003, closed its doors temporarily due to the pandemic, only to win its third star when it reopened in 2021. This, says award-winning cookbook author Flavel Monteiro, is proof that “Rene always has something up his sleeve".

"Noma’s upcoming venture means foodies will experience a new wave of haute cuisine, spectacular gastronomy that will be the next trend in the culinary world,” says Monteiro, who was the driving force behind the Jubilee Gastronomy series of Michelin-lauded chefs at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Italian chef Francesco Magro, of The Artisan in Dubai, contests that, despite allegations that Redzepi and Noma are under scrutiny for their reliance on unpaid interns, in fact “the restaurant recently introduced remuneration for internships … one of the few top restaurants in the world doing so".

Yet Magro also agrees that the high levels of pressure faced by chefs can be debilitating. “It is very hard to ensure the highest quality standards within ‘normal’ working hours," he says. "Chefs are working 14 to 16 hours daily. Inflation and the European energy crisis are playing a role in this as well. The cost of manpower is high and the volume of customers is limited. The revenue is not enough for a sustainable environment.”

However, Magro adds: “Rene Redzepi is a pioneer of the hospitality industry. Noma will close, but I’m sure his next concept will be revolutionary. The announced closing is, for me, a way to create hype for this future endeavour.”

Chef Claudio Cardoso, of SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences, offers a different take on the situation, explaining that it's almost essential for chefs who are at the top of their game to rethink and shape the future of food.

"Chefs and restaurants with a certain platform need to become the pioneers of change," he says. "Small wins and positive changes toward food can transform the culinary landscape.

"Talking about sustainability, the planet is the only home we will have. To put it in a simple analogy, a chicken can only produce a certain number of eggs. Noma's team figured that out a long time ago, and it's time more chefs understand this and drive new trends that are more viable for the planet."

"The acceptance of Noma 3.0 will be the same as all its past evolutions and this will be as impactful," adds Cardoso. "Their forward thinking allows them to convey the message better to bigger audiences, and so initiate the needed change."

And were Noma 3.0 not to materialise as expected? Chef Akmal Anuar, of Michelin-starred restaurant 11 Woodfire, believes that would still not dilute the influence of Noma.

"Noma introduced Nordic cuisine on a global stage and impacted almost every other progressive restaurant," he says. "The team’s approach to being natural — from chefs in T-shirts to foraging for ingredients through the landscape of Scandinavia — defined modern gastronomy.

"It allowed diners to explore and eat what no one ever thought of using. This decision to close at their high is not to be treated as a shame, but a testament to say ‘enough’ or ‘it’s time move on’. Noma will always be in the history books for the future to refer to.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see the venues part of the debut Mena's 50 Best Restaurants list

Updated: January 11, 2023, 1:47 PM