Thursday 3 February 2011

An audience with Rene Redzepi

The Noma goodie bag

As sensual experiences go Rene Redzepi’s book launch, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine at the Freemason’s Hall delivered on all levels. By choosing the Grand Temple with its sumptuous Art Deco interior and dazzling gold mosaics (built as a memorial to Freemasons who died in the Great War) the subliminal connotations of provenance, history, monumentalism and mathematics were cunningly installed in the collective psyche of the audience. 

Rene Redzepi within moments of taking the stage had aligned himself and the identity of his particular style of cuisine with modernist Danish architects and designers. Hans Christian Andersen and literature were the next unlikely bedfellows as he related a letter of disapproval with the story of ‘The Emperors New Clothes’. This could be seen as a preemptive strike on Redzepi’s part, as the notion of Nordic haute cuisine is still one that is a little hard to swallow. But as terroir became the defining word of the evening one was left feeling that the conviction of his evangelical sermonising could convert even the most sceptical.
Redzepi’s food is firmly planted in its locality – from the foraging of Nordic wild plants to the mise en scene reappropriation of the ingredients on the plate: the very straw that the free range chicken nested in to lay the egg that diners enjoyed; the seaweed and shells that provide a visual link with the oyster settled amongst them. 

Redzepi may have recognised that consumers from years of shopping in the sanitised environments that are supermarkets have little idea of where their food actually comes from, and in all honesty this is not an example most chefs would want to employ as the terroir of industrial food production would challenge even the most hardened fuelies.
Authenticity, locality, diversity, austerity, environment, sustainability from this comes a philosophy of “a narrow frame of work can produce new things” - necessity as the mother of invention. By foraging for his food within the environs of Nordic countries he creates a unique cuisine that cannot be replicated on a global scale only upon a local. 

As novelty is the guiding principle of fashion and consumption, his particular take is a paradox for his values see a return to simplicity and nature but at the same time remain highly esoteric in their reach. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – well maybe a little, for those who are fortunate enough to partake in this experiential cuisine can truly only be the ones to eulogise its splendour – the rest will have to be satisfied with gazing upon the images in his book or the memory of the aromas filling the Freemasons’ Hall and the charm of the man with a seemingly true love of Nordic food. 

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