Rene Redzepi has been called the world’s best chef, but that’s too simple a description. His approach to food perfectly encapsulates a time and place, the plate as microcosmos, from ingredients and cooking methods to the way it is consumed. At his Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, diners harvest root vegetables from edible soil and rip through beef tartare with their fingers.
Few can resist Redzepi’s straight-talking charm and boyish good looks. Nonetheless, critics ridiculed him when he co-founded Noma with the idea that it would serve a contemporary, purely Nordic cuisine at a time when high gastronomy in Denmark meant French or Italian. He proved his detractors wrong, taking overlooked regional products such as musk ox and sea buckthorn and preparing them with a creativity that knew no limits. The result earned him top position in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards several years in a row.
His father was born in Macedonia, where Rene spent much of his childhood, and this culture helped inform his ideas of cooking: poultry came from chicken in the backyard, fruit grew in the fields. “You never visited supermarkets,” he recalls. “Such things simply didn’t exist.” Years later, he has done as much as anybody to turn foraging into a 21st-century global trend.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Redzepi is continually thinking, questioning, pushing the envelope. A boat near the restaurant houses his Nordic Food Lab, a center for scientific research, where studies include a reexamination of insects as food (live ants are served at Noma). Obviously, this chef has not finished revolutionizing the way we eat.