The restaurant has frequently topped the list of world’s best restaurants and most recently won in 2021. The ranking marked a record-breaking fifth time that the restaurant had received the honor, making it ineligible for future wins.
However, as reported by The New York Times on Monday, Redzepi has decided to close the restaurant to patrons permanently at the end of 2024. Noma will transform instead into a “full-time food laboratory” where new dishes and products will be developed for its e-commerce operation, Noma Projects.
The dining room will reopen on occasion for pop-up events, while Redzepi’s role will transform into that of chief creative officer.
Redzepi says he made the decision to close the famous restaurant after a realisation that the fine dining industry needs to change,referring in part to the grueling long hours that go into Noma and what it takes to compensate employees fairly.
“We have to completely rethink the industry,” he said. “This is simply too hard, and we have to work in a different way.”
Noma has faced scrutiny for some time over its treatment of its workers, with the restaurant changing its previous structure of relying on unpaid interns in October.
The Times spoke to one intern, who staged at Noma when she was 26 and recalled her only job being to produce fruit-leather beetles.
“I didn’t expect that I would use my knife only a couple of times a day,” she said, “or that I would be told I didn’t need my tasting spoon because there was nothing to taste.”
The intern, who also claimed she was prohibited from speaking or laughing, said she doesn’t believe “that kind of toxic work environment is necessary”.
Redzepi has acknowledged in the past the role he has played in contributing to the toxic workplace environment, revealing in a 2015 essay that he bullied staff verbally and physically.
Noma now pays its interns, a change that has added at least $50,000 to its monthly labour costs, according to The Times.
Ultimately, Redzepi says that Noma has been operating for some time at a level that feels “untenable”.
“It’s unsustainable,” he told The Times of modern fine-dining. “Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work.”
Redzepi claims that, in an “ideal restaurant,” employees “could work four days a week, feel empowered and safe and creative”. However, he believes the problem is how to compensate the employees.
“The problem is how to pay them enough to afford children, a car and a house in the suburbs,” he added.
The news of Noma’s imminent closure has sent shockwaves through the restaurant industry, with many surprised that the ultra-successful restaurant will shutter its doors.
“Noooo! I have seen so many shows featuring Noma and always wanted to visit. Maybe I can make it before it closes in 2024? But its evolution into a full-time food laboratory seems pretty cool,” one person tweeted.
Another said: “Damn, sad to hear. I’m trying to go one more time… One of the most transformative experiences I’ve had in my past decade was spending money I did not have at Noma.”
Others have been unsurprised by the news given the criticisms directed at the fine dining industry for some time.
“Sad but unsurprising. Much like couture, fine dining at this level has never been profitable, it only serves as an advertisement to the skills and creativity of the team behind it,” one person tweeted.
The news also prompted many to make the same joke, with a number of people suggesting Redzepi made the decision after watching The Menu, the fine dining thriller starring Anya Taylor-Joy.
“He definitely just watched The Menu,” one person joked, while another tweeted: “Lol he saw The Menu and got self conscious.”