Winning the “Best Restaurant in the World” award from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, is a monumental feat which NOMA’s René Redzepi accomplished in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014. What drives a chef to want to be at the pinnacle of the culinary kingdom knocking off global chefs who ferociously compete for the number one spot with sweet and savory dining delights of their own innovation?
Exploring the heights and depths of this question is at the heart of this expertly conceived and beautifully filmed documentary NOMA: My Perfect Storm by director, writer Pierre Deschamps, who shares Redzepi’s love of genius in the kitchen. Deschamps has been a chef and has a CAP (Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle) in classic French cuisine. His appreciation for all things related to exceptionally prepared, innovative dishes inspired him to painstakingly and cinematically capture the sensuality and visual brilliance of colors and textures executed by Redzepi’s rare creations, with ingredients culled from the Nordic region with attention to seasonal selections.
Deschamps’ kinship as a chef and foodie was the obsession behind his two year investigation into how and why Redzepi became one of the most globally renowned culinary masters in his work at NOMA. Deschamps’ investigation, bores into the soul of Redzepi. Through interviews, and comments from Redzepi’s culinary team, friends, co-founder Claus Meyer, fellow world class chefs, journalists, parents, and those who provide the ingredients to some of his most exquisitely prepared dishes, Deschamps shows the intuitive acuity of Redzepi’s chef mind and impulses. He questions Redzepi about the values that are important to him based upon his childhood growing up as a Muslim in Denmark. He discovers the impact of the chef’s alienation in a culture that considers him “the other.” He learns how he was drawn to the freedom of the land in Macedonia, the place for which his parents scrimped and saved to visit during summers in his childhood. And the director uncovers Redzepi’s uber ambitious, hyper professionalism as an entrepreneur who will not be swerved from his culinary quest to achieve what is playful, fun, original, unique in his own signature cuisine.
Deschamps crafts each segment to reflect a different facet of the intimate world of NOMA, which has the most unique food voice in the world and which sets the standard of greatness for other restaurants hoping to attain even 30th place on the list of the “50 greatest restaurants.” The director proves that Redzepi conceives every dining experience to be different, based upon how natural elements of the weather and other factors in the region like soil, etc., transform an ingredient’s vigor and ripeness. With a few exceptions to the menu, the Nordic region is predominately the only place from which Redzepi is inspired to obtain his wild foraged plants which fashion his culinary delights. His food conceptualization reflects life, moment to moment, beautiful in its transience. The ethos of NOMA is this: apprise the ineffable, synergistic moments of our integration in time and place to appreciate who we are and acutely recognize our sensory experiences as a cornerstone of fine living. The quality of what we taste, smell, touch, and see in cuisine adhering to time and place, enhances an eating pleasure inherent to our well being. Processed foods from other regions in the world? You won’t find them at NOMA’s tables.
Deschamps clearly spells out how Redzepi achieves what he does; and by the end of the film we know that this takes an incredible team effort, hard work, Redzepi’s masterful guidance as head shepherd, obsession, ambition and love. To work at such a frenetic level daily is stressful, but the payoff is greater than money. NOMA’s and Redzepi’s international impact on food and lifestyle culture has influenced many chef’s to adopt the approach of time and place, of selecting natural, micro-seasonal, local ingredients to deliver the maximum of nutrition and taste in an optimum level of fun and health.
As a foodie I enjoyed Deschamps’ film shot palette. It is energetic and witty. He edits acutely; he moves from close-ups of the plates as they are being artfully sculpted by Redzepi and others, then quickly shifts to the variety of finished creations. He alternates the hyper speed of the kitchen with slow motion shots accompanied by Redzepi’s voice overs discussing his philosophy about the foraged ingredients to use for his highly appealing and beautiful food designs. There are close-ups and medium shots while he and the team meet to present new dishes and try them out for NOMA’s menu.
The director shoots Redzepi and a few on his team in semi-profile or mediums. At times Redzepi candidly and intimately talks into the camera. We empathize with feelings expressed about the aftermath of being awarded the “best restaurant in the world,” and the dangers the award held for NOMA’s future success. We learn why the first time Redzepi was awarded, he was shaken to the core and nearly thrown off his game. Deschamps discovers what helped Redzepi gradually recoup to win the award subsequent times to provoke tourists from the U.S. to Canada, from Australia to Japan to journey to Copenhagen and NOMA to have an extraordinary one-of-a-kind experience not found anywhere else in the world.
Meticulous and spare in his use of overheads, the filmmaker attempts every camera angle possible to enhance our interest. He includes time lapse photography to follow the renovations of the kitchen from start to finish. This is a symbolic turning point in solidifying the NOMA team’s determination to start again with new iterations of their cuisine to keep it fresh and vibrant. The renovation occurs after a particularly chaotic period in 2013 when headwinds and storms were the team’s daily portion. Deschamps cinematically articulates it all and provides the fascinating aftermath.
In his attempt to inspire us about the perseverance, ambition, and hope of his subjects, Redzepi, and team NOMA, Deschamps has put together an amazing film. Foodies and even those who enjoy eating at average restaurants will find this documentary engaging because of Redzepi’s and team NOMA’s passion to rain down the divine on their exceptional creations. How is NOMA Redzepi’s perfect storm? You will have to see the film to find out, and you’ll be be glad you did.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0714859036] [amazon template=iframe image&asin=0714866911]