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Workplace woes: Restaurant voted ‘world’s best’ to close its doors in 2024

Noma, consistently known for its woodsy food innovation and atmosphere, experiences an ‘unsustainable’ model

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Danish restaurant Noma in Copenhagen.

This is a March 14, 2012, file photo of Danish restaurant Noma in Copenhagen.

Jens Dresling, Polfoto via Associated Press

Whether this is the first time you’ve heard of Noma or not, it’s more important than you might think.

At the end of 2024, “the world’s best restaurant” will close its doors to the public and pivot back to its roots to become a “food laboratory,” as reported by The New York Times.

Noma is a living example of how the fine dining industry is not untouched — or immune — to workplace dissatisfaction and difficulty.

“It’s unsustainable,” founder of Noma, René Redzepi told The New York Times. “Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work.”

With three Michelin stars in Copenhagen, Denmark, Noma was founded upon innovation by its owner and head chef René Redzepi in 2003. The name “Noma” translates from Danish as a contraction of two words meaning “Nordic” and “food,” per NPR.

Many call it the best restaurant in the world, since it’s been on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list five times now, tying with Ferran Adrià’s restaurant “El Bulli” for the most wins ever, per Eater.

El Bulli closed down in 2011 as Adrià took a new direction, according to El País — a pattern that Redzepi seems to be following.

In the restaurant’s early years, Redzepi was known to be a hotheaded chef like Gordon Ramsey. He took out his stress on his staff and said that he became what he had hated, per 50 Best.

“It’s like a pressure cooker,” Redzepi told 50 Best in 2020. “The steam explodes in your face and you start seeing versions of yourself you didn’t know existed.”

Reportedly, he worked a lot on bettering himself and his relationship with employees to make the restaurant a better place to work. Now, however, he has come to the conclusion that the business model is “unsustainable.”

“It’s unsustainable,” he told The New York Times. “Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work.”

A couple of “foodies” — Daryl and Mindi Hirsch — went to the restaurant in 2021 and described the experience as transcendent on their 2foodtrippers website.

“Redzepi and his extensive team purposely transported us to the forest,” the Hirsch couple wrote. “Words, pictures and even the restaurant’s enormous pedigree can’t convey the enormity of the experience we shared.”

The restaurant has three different seasons or menus — ocean, vegetables and forest. Daryl and Mindi Hirsch experienced the forest menu as pictured on Noma’s Instagram.

This type of transport, the duo also recognized, would take lots of work for the staff to accomplish, which former employee Kim Mikkola agrees with.

Mikkola, a Finnish chef who worked at Noma for four years, told The New York Times of her own experience and how this kind of service really does take a toll on the employees.

“Everything luxetarian is built on somebody’s back,” Mikkola said. “Somebody has to pay.”

By working differently and moving to more food experimentation and less service, Redzepi hopes to save the Noma brand.