In a nutshell: The filmmakers’ main focus here is esteemed chef Rene Redzepi rather than his innovative locavore food – and he doesn’t present well. Still, the back-of-house action at Noma, his “world’s best” Copenhagen restaurant, will be required watching for hype-prone foodies.
Australian release date: Thu 11 Feb
This doco pushes the contemporary portrayal of the chef as artist, depicting chef Rene Redzepi, lauded for masterminding the innovative locavore fare at his Copenhagen restaurant Noma, as a temperamental (if not tortured) genius. At one stage, ludicrously, he is even likened to Mozart. And it seems that Redzepi believes in his own myth – always a folly. The result? He presents as an obnoxious, precious, despotic and supremely arrogant prima donna with an out-sized chip on his shoulder.
His me-against-the-world attitude derives, it seems, from the racism he experienced as a child when his family migrated from their native Macedonia to Denmark, but it’s not easy to sympathise when he carries on like a spoilt brat, and belittles his chefs – one in particular – as the cameras roll. Unsurprisingly, they are timid in contributing to the discussions when assessing ingredients and flavour combinations as they work on developing new dishes for the Noma menu. They are less a team than a sounding board for Rezpepi as he holds court, affirming his opinions without giving any meaningful input of their own.
Redzepi does not appear to enjoy his success, which he mostly uses as an opportunity to flip the bird to those who bullied and taunted him in the past – quite literally in one instance. After Noma has been declared “best restaurant in the world” at some meeting of the food critic elite, he and his team pose on stage for a photograph with middle fingers raised. As they say, the fish rots from the head down…
He doesn’t do much for his credibility in claiming on one hand to regard the notion of a restaurant being declared the best in the world as “nonsense” (which it clearly is), while on the other falling all over the place in jubilation when that accolade is bestowed on Noma.
In the end, he comes across as opinionated and self-consciously irreverent, a bundle of paradoxes, aggro and bitterness, and not interesting enough to decode.
While the seasonal locavore philosophy driving Rezpepi’s vision is laudable, not much time is spent on his elaborating meaningfully on his culinary ideas. There are ample shots of exotic dishes being fastidiously assembled by the surgically precise team at Noma, featuring lots of nondescript mossy, leafy items foraged from local forests – exotic certainly, but hardly mouth-watering in appearance.
The proof, of course is in the eating, and with 27,000 diners on the waiting list to part with around $500 (excluding drinks) to dine at Noma Australia during its 10 week Sydney residency, it seems there are plenty of dedicated-followers-of-foodie-fashion prepared to put Rezpepi to the test. Given my druthers, and with seasonal ingredients and top quality assumed, I’d settle for a big beautiful plate of pasta or SE Asian street food and keep the change.
Movie website: www.magpictures.com/noma/
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