René Redzepi, Chef at Noma, on Being No. 1

"You know, does it show people where we are in the world and what time of year it is. Can they get this in New York? Can they get this in Sao Paolo? There are so many restaurants that are contemporary world restaurants and it doesn't matter where in the world they are, it's the same feel, the same music, the same this, the same that. And this is like a mantra, you could say. We have -- time and place, we have to show time and place. ... The essence and the core of everything is quite banal, it's just time and place. And it sounds easy but it's quite difficult."

World's Leading Chef René Redzepi: Getting Into Noma

We asked Redzepi exactly how hard it is to get into Noma, given its growing profile worldwide. His answer quickly turns to the pressure in the kitchen to justify the "world's top restaurant" title.

"We only take bookings three months in advance, and they are booked three months in advance to the date," he said. "But, uh, we have two types of guest in a restaurant. That's at least how I see it. You have guests that believe that their opinion is the absolute truth, and then there's guests that don't believe that. I think that when you understand that and when you try--and when you know that there are people that believe that their opinion is the absolute truth, even when you have these 28 guys you have in the kitchen, who work and struggle to serve them, then if you accept that and realize that there's nothing to do and focus on the others, then pressure is a relative thing, you know."

As much success as he has had at Noma, Redzepi doesn't expect to be there forever, he said.

"I'm not going be here all my life, no. It's impossible," he said. "It would not be fair to Restaurant Noma that I were to be there and repeat myself -- at one point I'm going to be over. I need to go and another head chef needs to come in -- if there's someone else that wants the challenge and dares. But I think it's a natural evolution that -- you have a period where your creativity is high, and as we're a restaurant that's known for creativity, that's what we need to do all that time. And one point I will have nothing more to deliver to that project. I know that for a fact, it's just the way things are, and then I'll have to do something else, go somewhere else, find a way to reboot myself."

Redzepi embraces the label of pioneer, whatever pressure may come with it.

"I would say we're one of the pioneers, yeah, for sure, in our part of the world," he said. "...People sometimes ask me is there a message that you want to put through? Then I thought about it. Is there a message I -- do we have a message, why do we need a message? And I'm not sure we need a message.

"I don't want to preach anything. But you can say that by doing it in Denmark, this cold spot in the north where people think nothing can grow, we're also saying that it can be done anywhere. Perhaps the next big cuisine will be in Poland or wherever, you know, and most people there laugh a little bit when you say Poland."

"But 10 years ago, people would laugh if somebody said Denmark."

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