Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant branded as the “world’s best restaurant”, will close its doors for regular service in 2024 to reinvent itself as a food laboratory. Its owner said he cannot compensate the staff fairly while keeping Noma open, The New York Times reported.
“Winter 2024 will be the last season of noma as we know it. We are beginning a new chapter; noma 3.0,” Noma’s chef-owner Rene Redzepi said on the restaurant’s website.
Noma, where a lunch would set you back by $700 (over Rs. 57,000), has won the top spot on the World’s 50 Best five times, between 2010 and 2021.
An Indian food stylist, who did her internship at Noma, has detailed what she terms the “toxic” work environment at the restaurant with three Michelin stars.
Namrata Hegde worked as an unpaid intern at Noma in 2017 for three months, according to The New York Times. She was selected as an intern after she graduated from culinary school in Hyderabad.
"I thought an internship was about me learning, as well about contributing to Noma's success," she told the Times. "I don't believe that kind of toxic work environment is necessary."
She was told by the junior Norma chefs, under whom she worked, to operate in silence. She was “specifically forbidden to laugh”, the report said.
A restaurant spokesperson underplayed the claims, saying Hegde’s account “does not reflect our workplace or the experience we wish for our interns or anyone on our team”.
During her internship at Nome, her main job involved little of actual cooking and was mainly about making fruit-leather beetles using silicone stencils.
“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,” Hegde told the Times.
Noma began paying its interns in October 2022, adding at least $50,000 to its monthly labor costs, according to the report.An abbreviation of the Danish words "nordisk" (Nordic) and "mad" (food), noma -- which does not capitalise its name - opened in central Copenhagen in 2003 before shutting down in 2016. It reopened two years later in a different, leafier neighbourhood of the Danish capital.