René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma has changed the way chefs everywhere think. But as writer Anya von Bremzen explains, his influence goes far beyond food.
The 37-year-old chef René Redzepi is a powerful storyteller. When he communicates, the world listens. I’m particularly struck by a story of his about growing up in Copenhagen and going to Danish friends’ houses for meals. “The food was set on the table,” he recalls, “and we ate in total silence.” Only after the dishes were cleared did conversation and fun resume, “like there was this Protestant ban on food being enjoyable, like food was just sustenance.”
Equally memorable are Redzepi’s tales of his annual visits to rural Macedonia, his father’s homeland. There, milk came right from the cow, and chickens were slaughtered for dinner; kids foraged for berries and chestnuts while women made refreshing drinks out of rose petals. The visceral physicality of it all—plus the generosity at the table—represented another reality. It’s one that Redzepi embraced when he opened Noma in 2003 and became an obsessive nourisher.