Well friends, my time at restaurant Noma has finally come to an end. I’m on a plane back to the U.S. as I type. It been an outstanding adventure filled with more new experiences than I could have ever imagined. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Copenhagen it’s been nothing but a total bombardment of new sights, sounds, flavors, and happenings. One of the greatest joys was that I had the opportunity to share the trip with all of you. Thank you for reading! Writing has always been a passion, and being able to do it in a relaxed setting all about the subject of food has been an absolute pleasure. Where from here you ask? The blog will most definitely continue. There are still thousands and thousands of nerdy food moments yet to be discovered. New dishes and recipes to create. New flavors to be experimented with. New food journeys yet to be taken. More cooking to be curious about.
Last Moments at Noma
I couldn’t have chosen a better time to be at Noma. My already incredible experience was wrapped up by the staff party of all staff parties. This was a celebration that had been planned to honor one of the leaving sous chefs, Torston, and to celebrate the success of Noma in general. By far, the most memorable evening of my entire trip.
Anyone that's ever had anything to do with Noma was invited to the party. Look how many people showed up! Somewhere around 150 in all...
Red carpet to the boat.
Lots and lots of champagne...
Rene popping bottles of champagne on the boat.
Belting "Noma Number One" at the top of our lungs...
Even Jeffery Steingarten showed up to take part in the festivities.
Everyone gathered as Rene gave his speech.
With that out of the way, I would like to introduce my top five list of things I will take with me from Noma. This is a list of theory and cooking practice, not recipes or techniques (although I am taking plenty of those back with me as well). Most of these things I already do or have tried to do. They’re on the list because I feel that the point was really driven home at Noma and I feel the need to make certain that these habits carry on after I’ve left. This wasn’t an easy list to put together. In addition to all the recipes and techniques that I have documented along the way, I’ve learned infinite amounts of knowledge about myself as a cook and what I think of food. Not to mention the tons of information on how a restaurant at this level is run. So without further ado here it is...
Top Five Things I Will Take With Me From Noma
5. Working as clean as humanly possible. This is one of those things that I already try and do as much as I can. You can always work cleaner. At Noma, if you’re peeling carrots for instance and a strip of carrot peeling hits the floor and isn’t immediately removed, you’re in trouble. No more equipment or product on a work surface that what you absolutely need in the next five minutes. Floors must stay spotless, table tops wiped down constantly, spoon water always clean enough to drink. This goes for organization too: right after you use an item it goes right back where it came from nicely and neatly with the label facing out. I know, I know this ones a little boring, but it’s just so damn important. You work better when you work cleaner - it’s true. Less clutter and mess = better food faster.
4. Treat each and every guest like a VIP. All the guests at Noma recieve 5-7 starter snacks that aren’t part of the ordered menu. Cooks and chefs are constantly bringing dishes to the guests and explaining and saucing them at the table. Each component of every single plate is scrutinized to the highest degree. Every guest is just as important as the one before it. And it shows in the food and on the customers face. Everyone there feels like a VIP.
3. Treat all your fellow cooks with respect. I wish I could say that all the cooks at Noma followed this rule. However, most did. In fact it was probably ne of the most welcoming restaurants I have ever worked at. At that level, the word “welcoming” is practically unheard of. Those cooks that did treat their peers with respect were much more successful in gaining a strong working relationship with those people. It was driven home how important it is to be patient and respectful with every single cook. Cooking and working a service is a team effort, if that team part is missing, the service will surly fall apart.
2. Food can and should be complex with out being complicated. All of Noma’s food is like this. Most dishes don’t have more than five ingredients. And yet the individual components have been so finely tuned that there is a straightforward complexity present. The flavors are clear and direct. Putting a pear on a plate is simple. Putting a paper thin slice of pear that’s been compressed with fresh pear juice and lemon verbena - that’s complex. But not complicated. See the difference?
1. Making food as fresh as humanly possible. This is stressed to the highest degree at Noma. And why shouldn’t it be. We all know that the fresher food is, the better it tastes. So why do cooks prep some ingredients so far in advance? Because it’s easier. I’ve learned the importance of a la minute preparations here at Noma. It makes such a noticeable difference. Is it hard? Absolutely. But the pay off it worth it. Noma bakes bread twice a day, makes all their sauces to order, vegetables and fruit are prepared day of -sometimes twice daily. The compressed apples used for one of the desserts are compressed to order. The order comes in and a cook begins to slice apples on a mandoline and then punch them out with a circle cutter. They are put in a small cryovac bag with fresh apple juice and apple vinegar. The cook then runs (literally runs) out of the pastry kitchen, out the back door, down the way, up the stairs to the prep kitchen, and compresses the apples. Then runs back. For every order. Now that’s fresh.
Just for fun, I’ve put together few more lists. Enjoy.
Top Five Weirdest Foods I Experienced In Denmark (all of them at Noma)
5. Bernard’s Staff Meals.
-Huge fat smelly French dude that resembled Elton John. Made staff meal twice a week. Some of the most horrid food I have ever put in my mouth. One of the best was squid that he had started braising at 9am for a 5pm staff meal. I’m gagging a little as I think about it. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers!
4. Yeast Sauce.
-This is just something that one of the cooks was playing around with while I was there. He had taken whey and left it outside to collect the natural living yeast in the air around the restaurant. It was quite literally a sauce that was alive.
3. Raw Beaver.
-Not much explaining to do here. We got in beaver meat. And then ate it raw. Doesn’t get much more weird than that.
-We got it in, but apparently we were just bagging it for someone else. Would have loved to try it. You can imagine the surprise on my face when the chef told me that the dark red meat in the bag was whale.
1. Live Shrimp.
-A totally 100% alive shrimp. You reach down into a container of them jumping around like crickets and just pop it in your mouth. Doesn’t get any fresher than that. It’s pretty important that you bite down as quickly as possible to avoid too much squirming in your mouth. Although there’s always a little. Apparently, Noma used to serve these to all their guests, until they had two separate incidents where women began crying after eating the shrimp. Go figure.
Top Five Tedious Prep Jobs To Be Given At Noma
5. Scraping chicken skin.
-Prepped 3 cases at a time. Takes about 5 hours per session.
4. Peeling and deveining celery.
-First carefully peeling the outside of the celery rib, then with a paring knife, pulling out each and every fiberous vein that runs down the rib.
3. Chervil stems.
-A large beautiful bunch of chervil is selected and all the leaves are individually picked off it leaving a bare winter tree like stem. The restaurant needs about 300 a day.
2. Sanding and polishing marrow bones.
-Bones that have had the marrow pushed out of them were sanded and polish in five different stages until the bones are smooth and shiny, they are then used for the bone marrow fudge. Because of the bone dust, the task has to be done outside. In the cold. You return to the kitchen two hours later with numb fingers and bone dust all over you. Ugh.
1. Taking shells and membranes off walnuts and beech nuts.
-The nuts are carefully cracked and the nuts are pulled from their shells. Then the nuts are quickly blanched in hot water and with a paring knife, the membranes are pulled from the nut. Takes four guys about 2 hours to fill a half pint container.
Top Five Noma Moments
5. Working service side by side with El Bulli’s sous chef.
4. Cheersing with Rene Redzepi on my 22nd birthday.
3. The feeling that came rushing in when Torsten the chef came bounding up the stairs, the number one trophy in his hand.
2. Watching Thomas Keller eat something that you have prepared and then smile.
1. Singing “Noma Number One” at the top of my lungs with a glass of champagne. On a boat. Gliding through the canals of Copenhagen. Then turning to my right and seeing Jeffery Steingarten standing next to me doing the same.
So what’s next for me? Glad you asked! From here I head to Providence for a little while for my graduation from Johnson & Wales University and a BA in Culinary Arts. Mission accomplished!
Then it’s off to beautiful Jamesport, New York to start full time work at Luce & Hawkins. Something that I’m deeply excited about. The venue is the first of it’s kind in the area and within the first two weeks of opening has already become a huge success. There are incredible things in store for the restaurant including farms, fruit trees, giant gardens, chickens, pigs, and maybe even some honey bees. I. Can’t. Wait. I urge you to check out the website and book reservations for the summer season while there are still seats available. This place is going to be big folks. You can be sure of that. Of course I’ll be reporting on all it’s happenings from here. Stay tuned!
Another big thank you to everyone that reads this thing. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!
Until next time...
I fødevarer, vi har tillid til