Gourmet Food and the “Farm-to-Table” Trend

Chef René Redzepi holding a fish typically regarded as trash. This is symbolic of his methods as a chef; turning unexpected resources into delicious food. Photo Credit: theguardian.com

In the small neighborhood of Christianshaven within Copenhagen, Denmark one finds the culinary jewel of the country – and, arguably, the world. Noma, a Nordic cuisine inspired restaurant, has topped the list of “Best Restaurants in the World”, not once, not twice, but four times (they are currently in third)![1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noma_(restaurant)#Awards_and_rankings
The restaurant and head chef, René Redzepi, now 37 years old, has created a culinary empire in the small neighborhood factory where he first opened his restaurant. One thing that is so fascinating about the restaurant is its use of already-existing features from the factory to enhance the ambiance. Rather than building a new, luxurious setting for patrons to eat, Redzepi refurbished the inside of an old factory to create Noma. From the outside, one would expect an abandoned warehouse, but step into the restaurant and you are greeted with friendly faces and many intricate recipes that reflect Nordic culture.

Rene foraging

René Redzepi foraging for local edibles to feature on the menu at Noma. Photo Credit: The New Yorker

The restaurant does a relatively good job of revitalization and renewal of resources in Denmark. However, recently René Redzepi has announced an even bigger environmentally-friendly idea for his two-star Michelin restaurant: he intends to close the restaurant for a year and rebuild it as an urban farm/garden starting December 2016. Goals for the restaurant include a greenhouse on the roof and have part of the restaurant floating on water.[2]http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-noma-closing-20150914-story.html[3]http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/dining/noma-rene-redzepi-urban-farm.html In terms of urban revitalization and renewal, Redzepi intends to open his new urban farm in a grungier, more impoverished part of Copenhagen; the area has been described as a “auditorium-size crack den,” with graffiti and garbage strewn about the area.[4]http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/dining/noma-rene-redzepi-urban-farm.html By placing his world famous restaurant/farm in this area, Redzepi will be revitalizing the area and bringing a natural beauty to a setting that is mostly concrete and currently unused by the residents surrounding it, except for teenagers who often use the area as a skateboard park. Traffic towards the area will also increase exponentially, hopefully resulting in a positive impact on the economy of the town and its patrons. Of course, the restaurant will still have its standards of quality food and thus be a more expensive place to eat, limiting its clientele. But it will also introduce residents of Copenhagen to the area and hopefully continue to put Christianhaven on the map as an attraction in Copenhagen.  

A beautiful dish from Noma featuring hyper-local ingredients. Photo Credit: foodtourist.com

A beautiful dish from Noma featuring hyper-local ingredients. Photo Credit: foodtourist.com

Regarding urban sustainability and the impact on green cities, Redzepi’s vision brings both beauty and sustainability to his restaurant. Although a risky idea, Redzepi has earned admiration from Dan Barber, the chef who runs Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a successful and thriving farm-to-table establishment in the Lower Hudson Valley.[5]http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/dining/noma-rene-redzepi-urban-farm.html Stone Barns has continued to grow and find new ways to develop the land on his farm to provide healthy and sustainable ingredients for the restaurant and, in turn, Blue Hill organizes its menu based on seasonality and what is being grown by the farm at the time in order to ensure that the restaurant and the farm’s land continue to thrive.[6]http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/blogs/noma-copenhagen[7]http://www.vogue.com/13369544/stedsans-copenhagen-farm-rooftop-restaurant/ Although Copenhagen is much more urban than the Lower Hudson Valley of New York, with the right tools and ambition, it can be made into a sustainable establishment. Being a world famous chef, Redzepi is hopeful that his reputation will help this model of farm-to-table restauranteering and will inspire other gourmet chefs around the world to analyze their own practices and develop new methods to make their cooking practices more sustainable.

noma Restaurant in Copenhagen - Main Entrance

The entrance to Noma. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Finally, in terms of ecosystem services, Noma will be assisting the current green agriculture movement, ensuring that farms and agricultural services can provide restaurants with ingredients that are in season at a rate that does not exhaust the farmland. This creates a balance between the restaurant menu and the farm economics and habitats by making sure the restaurant is always aware of what the land can provide and not forcing farm and natural habitats to give unreasonable amounts of produce that are not in season at the time.[8]http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/blogs/noma-copenhagen Sustainable menus can ensure good use of the land and that the soil can continue to sustain vegetation.

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