No one in the food business is happier this week than Noma chef and restauranteur René Redzepi. At one point in time, Redzepi’s enterprise had held the World’s Best Restaurant for four years, but last year they slipped from the top, and the title was given to the Spanish contender, Celler de Can Roca. Since the demotion, Noma has been trying to reclaim the crown. This year, only one year since being knocked from the top, they won again and are once more the World’s Best Restaurant.
Eating at Noma is an out-of-this-world experience, although many of the dishes are delicately composed of some of the world’s most curious components. Redzepi’s meals are an orchestrated reinvention of familiar Nordic cuisine with a focus on forage-ables from neighboring forests and coasts. The two-Michelin-starred restaurant offers a meal that is beyond unique, it is the stuff of food fairy-tales. Most of the dishes are said to not even resemble real food. A procession of small, exquisitely arranged plates arrive at the table one after the other, and patrons taste each bite collectively. At $296 per person for the tasting menu, an additional $185 for wine pairing, a meal at Noma is a refined dream come true, the most memorable stroll through a misty, mouth-watering forest, and finally a place of pure love, even if dining alone.
Re-winning the crown was a happy reunion of two lost loves–victory and a divine plate of food. Leading up to the ceremony, Redzepi had been trying to protect his staff from experiencing a similar let down as the year prior. He was telling everyone they were not going to win, equating the restaurant’s reputation to Newtonian proofs: “What goes up, must come down.” Losing last year was quite a blow to the staff, and Redzepi himself, after being on the top for so long. That is why Monday’s win was all that more rewarding.
The annual awards have been held at London’s Guildhall since 2002. The best chefs around the globe gather to collect their awards and congratulate one another. It is essentially the Oscars of food. The event is put on by London-based Restaurant magazine, and the status of the awards has come to mean quite a bit in its 12-year run. Many award-winners’ businesses boom due to the exposure of the event. Last year’s winner, Celler de Can Roca’s, notoriety in the food world was acknowledged by an explosive reservation list. They received over 121,ooo requests for dinner over the course of the year.
The awards are decided by a diverse peer group including over 900 chefs, gourmands, and food writers from every corner of the world. The awards are a rare form of approval, coming from within an exclusive community of global foodies. This year’s top five winners are as follows:
- Noma: Copenhagen, Denmark
- El Celler de Can Roca: Girona, Spain
- Osteria Francescana: Modena, Italy
- Eleven Madison Park: New York City, U.S.
- Dinner By Heston Blumenthal: London, U.K.
When Redzepi accepted the award, reclaiming the crown for Noma, his voice was shaking, and he turned to his winning team, acknowledging everyone’s part in being the World’s Best Restaurant: “Guys,” he said, “We did it.”
Opinion by Stacy Feder