In a world that certainly appreciates a good meal, fine dining has been all the rage for years. But at what price? When so-called gastro tourists travel the world to spend $500 on a multi course tasting menu, can that be reconciled with how labor intensive and unsustainable that entire culinary undertaking is? More and more stories are coming to light of the poor labor practices in place that create these larger-than-life fine dining experiences for high rollers who have the cash to travel the world in search of the latest, most popular meal. Noma, located in Copenhagen and rated the world’s most popular restaurant, is shocking the culinary world by announcing that it can no longer produce the creative cuisine it is known for, while also paying its staff a fair wage and making a profit. They will close at the end of 2024.
Putting a Giant to Sleep
Rene Redzepi, the owner of Noma, is learning the hard way that the fine dining business is beyond difficult. The man who the New York Times says is “hailed as his era’s most brilliant and influential chef” is slated to close up shop for his fine dining restaurant service at the end of 2024. Named the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, the winner of its third Michelin star in August 2021, and numerous other World’s 50 Best Restaurant list appearances and other awards, Redzepi has decided to change his trajectory. After 2024, he will devote his time to Noma Projects, the company’s e-commerce outfit, developing new dishes and products in its full-time food laboratory.
Noma has had a great run since 2003 when it opened. As the New York Times food critic Pete Wells wrote this past week, no other restaurant “came up with so many ideas that were shoplifted by so many other places in so many other cities quite so quickly.” Redzepi featured the New Nordic style, which according to Forbes magazine was “locavore, hyper-seasonal, and high-acid,” pulling not from the fine French dining of the past, but choosing more innovative choices like duck brains and spruce tips for its fine diners.
But the world of fine dining is at a crossroads. According to the New York Times, “The style of fine dining that Noma helped create and promote around the globe–wildly innovative, labor-intensive and vastly expensive–may be…