Noma in Copenhagen is closing down... Why?

I’ve regularly read about a chef’s past experience on the restaurant website, often with a mention of experience at a high end, well known place. And I’ve often wondered whether it’s actually true or a completely false claim. And, if so, what was the nature of the experience (stage or paid employment). And how long did it last. And what was the nature of it coming to an end.

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Full disclosure - I wrote this having just read some bearish sell-side market outlook, while downing 2 martinis… :innocent: :blush: I’m normally quite optimistic…


Damiano, I read your post last night while sipping a bit of scotch before I slipped into unconsciousness. Your observation about the impact of low rates/free money on everything struck me. Now that I am awake and thinking more clearly I think you’re onto something. Clearly excess liquidity has devalued pretty much everything and encouraged excessive risk taking and people have over paid for all sorts of things. We paid lots of money for stupid sh*t. If money is free why wouldn’t some people work for free?

Central banks draining liquidity makes everyone more aware of the costs of everything. I would not be surprised that one of the side effects is a hit to the model of high end tasting menu dining that has exploded since the GFC.

I’m going to ponder that a bit more. Next time you’re in NYC we should have cocktails and figure out what’s wrong with the world. :thinking:


He had enjoyed it. It was a feather in his cap at the time, 10 years ago. I think it was partly to help draw business to the restaurant where he was the Chef, which was a fine dining restaurant open seasonally, only for 4 months a year, with tasting menus.

Also, he could bring his experience at Noma to the Chef’s school where he taught (Stratford Chef’s School in Stratford, Ontario). A lot of the graduates become
Chefs in various Canadian restaurants, so it would be good for him as an instructor to have experienced a stage there, to let both students and faculty know what it was like.

The whole idea of eating dirt was a bit of a gimmick then.

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Okay, so Noma uses some extremely well-qualified professional chefs as unpaid interns. Was your friend on a special two week internship for exec chefs, because a lot of the reporting around Noma says there’s a 3 month unpaid internship for chefs wanting to learn.

3 months of unpaid labor is exploitive, and doesn’t sound much better than fast food exploitation, except fast food workers get paid something. Something unsettling about this and yes, it very much has to do with “world’s best” ranking. Exploiting ambition and connections, still abuse. On top of that, do interns pays for their own housing and transportation? (search says yes, interns pay for own housing)

Good for your friend for the CV upgrade. Assuming a top exec chef is paid about $3k per week, that’s $6k for the privilege and CV slot. I do think your friend might be the exception because there’s stories of chefs making fruit bug for 3 months…didn’t learn much.

It just seems ludicrous to do this for a working restaurant with a profit margin to maintain because it’s still free labor. The food lab that’s Noma 3.0 sounds like a better model for continued education and a CV upgrade. So good for them for making this move but the 30 unpaid interns is crazy, and apparently they figured it out or were forced to.


Expensive tasting menus existed before the extended low rate environment, though.

The French Laundry was an extremely expensive trip, never mind meal. So was El Bulli. (So were all the other places that existed before rates started plummeting during the financial crisis and then stayed there.)


I don’t think top chefs in Stratford, Ontario, Canada were making $3000 USD per week in 2013, and top chefs in Stratford, Ontario or even Toronto in 2023 certainly are not making $3000 USD per week.

It’s sort of rude in Canadian culture to ask one’s friends, or a top Chef from which one takes cooking classes, these kinds of questions so I’m afraid I’d never be able to find you an answer.

I don’t think there are many chefs who make 150k a year. The only way to make that kind of money as a chef is to also be the owner. It’s a lot of work for not the greatest money.


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I don’t know how this Noma 3.0 can solve the 2.0 problem, I guess probably Rene Redzepi would travel around in the world, like he has done before and opened pop up restaurants. Or maybe he would organize some masterclasses, but how long will his rock star status fade? Unless he comes out with a brilliant idea.

I always think only 20-30 yr old chefs would be interested in spending a few months in Noma for their CV, but not accomplished chef.

I think with that in his CV, students will find your friend more open to new trends and interested in the school.

Personally, I think working in the kitchen in Noma is more interesting than, for example in the kitchen of El Bulli. At least Noma deals with seaonsal products but not heavy chemistry…

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Actually for restaurants, dealing with tasting menu is more economical and less work for the kitchen than dealing with à la carte. As all people eat the same things in tasting menu, the preparations are how many portions in advance. For à la carte, people order different things at different times and the table sizes are different, more work for the kitchen, as well as stock management.

But I think people might want to go back to à la carte, people want to choose what they want to eat, people have more and more allergic problem, or things they cannot eat. Tasting menu, in the beginning I found them interesting, but the dishes after dishes…after a while, even creative dishes start to look the same, just a reinterpretation of a certain dish… or a certain gimmick. Personally, growing older, I appreciate more and more traditional food or food that we know well or we grow up with, and they are very well cooked, than creative food using 2 dozen techniques, 3 dozen preparations but have no cultural context, except to fulfill the ego of the chef.


The age of abundance is probably coming to an end, not only due to higher ingredient costs and labour availability. There is ecology question and if people still want to spend 3-4 hours eating a meal.

Marc Veyrat (French 3 stars chef), when asked on a TV program (December 2022) what to do with the ever increasing cost , he replied the restaurant would try the best not to raise price, instead of using rare and more precious ingredients, he would substitute them with cheaper alternatives.


Not just at the high end.

One of our regular places is a nice little bistro, a few minutes drive away. It’s part of a mini-chain of half a dozen or so restaurants. When they first opened, they all had their own separate menus. That meant it could be worth travelling to one a bit further away, just for a change. But, since Covid, there is now a common menu across the group. It’s now a fixed price, rather than a carte (£39 for two courses, £47 for three) . It’s shorter than previous, with about six items at each course. And it’s been scaled back in terms of ingredients - where there might have been a steak dish, it’s now braised beef featherblade.


If there’s no profit, being the owner doesn’t get you anywhere.

I think that dude is done…or damaged good. He became famous and wealthy(?) off the backs of free labor? He has also admitted being abusive, per the old school industry standard…which permeates this whole cluster****.

In any case, I mention the food lab sounds like a better, less exploitive model over the traditional restaurant model…but of course I have no idea how it will work or details. If the point of the internships were to provide a CV slot and education, connections, etc., a lab sounds less exploitive or to the point.

Of course he used 30 unpaid interns for how long? Seems like it was regular exploitation. So I agree, Noma 3.0 won’t solve or make 2.0 go away now.

Noma closing makes me wonder if other former “best” restaurants will follow. Eleven Madison in NYC was outed for paying kitchen staff poorly.

You make more working at a McDonalds than in the kitchen at EMP. There’s something fundamentally wrong about a business that pays its employees so little and charges its customers so much. I went several times before Humm and Guidara split. Never really enjoyed my meals there. It was much more flash than substance. The best part of the meal was the end when they would drop a bottle of brandy on the table and bring the jars of house made granola to take home.

Taking advantage of the desire of young cooks to put a great name on their CV and pay them little to nothing while mistreating them is reprehensible.


I believe if young people are still at cooking school, their unpaid internship may justify as they are still learning their skills. Although I’ve heard stories about interns doing essential jobs that help the business going. For young chefs that have work experiences, no doubt, they should get paid.

I don’t know how the Danish labour law works, but is it legal to have unpaid non Danish working? Have the interns working permit? Or they are just undeclared illegals?

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I feel though that these interns are iindependent adults not slaves - they have made a choice to get this experience, they can certainly choose to do it without pay. The issue of low pay in restaurant kitchens in general is a separate issue from the issue of interns in elite kitchens, and yes I think it is wrong for these skilled workers, who may be supporting large families, to receive low pay in restaurants that charge such high prices.

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