‘World’s Best Restaurant’ Noma Fails to Win Third Star

Chef Rene Redzepi
Chef Rene Redzepi. His Copenhagen-based Noma holds the title of "Best Restaurant in the World," according to several surveys. Photo: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

Noma, holder of the “World’s Best Restaurant” title, fails to win a third Michelin star today in the French tiremaker’s guide to the “Main Cities of Europe.”

Chef Rene Redzepi, 33, is feted by fellow culinary masters for the creativity of his new Nordic cuisine at the restaurant, housed in an 18th-century warehouse on the waterfront in Copenhagen. Noma entered the World’s 50 Best list at 33 in 2006 and took first place last April, toppling El Bulli.

“Noma is a world-class restaurant and Michelin was among the first to recognize it, but Rene Redzepi would be among the first to admit that it still has a long way to go,” Rebecca Burr, 40, editor-in-chief of the guide, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It will happen one day, I’m sure. It’s a very good two-star restaurant and sits easily in the guide.

Redzepi was philosophical about the decision. “Don’t be disappointed for me,” he said in a phone interview. “Of course, it’s a dream to get three Michelin stars but I have many dreams. I dream of playing a guitar solo at the Roskilde rock festival but that hasn’t happened yet either. So many things make me happy, I’m going to be a father in a month. If Michelin thinks I’m not ready yet I’m going to keep on cooking and do my best to sway them.”

Inspector Visits

Burr declined to say how many visits Michelin inspectors had made to Noma over the past year and also refused to say what were the shortcomings that cost Noma a third star.

“It’s not a question of consistency: It’s a really good restaurant. It’s not about whether the chef is always there. We recognize that chefs need to publish books and do other things. Rene’s always in his kitchen and no restaurant at this level can rely on one person’s talent. It’s about the food.”

“We make as many visits as we have to,” she said. “We don’t just make these things happen. Our decisions are well considered and we want our customers to be confident in them. We understand that this is someone’s business and we may be accused of taking our time, but we consider carefully and we want our awards to be for a long time. There are six new Bib Gourmand awards in Copenhagen, which has always stood apart from the other Nordic capitals. It’s a destination.”

Star Losers

Olo, in Helsinki; Onyx, Budapest; and Thoernstroems Koek, Gothenburg, win a star. Restaurants losing a star include Zur Plainlinde, Salzburg; Bo Bech at Paustian and MR, both in Copenhagen; Carma, Helsinki; Haga, Oslo; and Sjoemagasinet, in Gothenburg. Geranium, in Copenhagen, gets a rising star.

The new winners of a Bib Gourmand for value for money include Schmederer, Salzburg; Martin Stein, Vienna; Enomania, Melee, Orangeriet, Relae, Skovshoved and Soren K, in Copenhagen; Farang and La Table, Helsinki.

The guide includes entries for a dozen cities not covered in other Michelin volumes: Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Athens, Budapest, Warsaw, Cracow, Stockholm and Gothenburg. It also features London, Paris and other capitals where the results previously have been announced.

Noma has become a place of pilgrimage for chefs wanting to try Redzepi’s innovative cooking. I went along last month with Pierre Koffmann, who once held three Michelin stars at La Tante Claire in London. He described our 20-course meal as fantastic.

Real Food

“I went to Noma with the idea that he’s the little brother of El Bulli, but that’s not the case at all,” Koffmann said. “He’s doing his own thing. El Bulli is more technical, using more machines, more chemistry. Noma is simpler, but there is technique, too. It’s real food.” Koffmann said he assumed Redzepi would get a third star this year. “Why wouldn’t he?”

Noma received its second Michelin star in 2007. Redzepi plans to cook in London on April 16, preparing a dinner with his friend Claude Bosi at Hibiscus. That’s two days before the announcement of this year’s S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. I am one of the 837 members of the international academy that votes for those awards.

Three stars mean exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey; two stars are for excellent cooking, worth a detour; one star denotes a very good restaurant in its category.

The criteria for stars are: food quality, preparation and flavors; the chef’s personality as revealed through the cuisine; value for money; and consistency over time and across the menu.

Michelin & Cie. is the world’s second-biggest tiremaker, after Bridgestone Corp. It produced its first guide in August 1900, distributed free of charge (until 1920) and intended for chauffeurs. The guide contained practical information, including street maps and tips on using and repairing tires. The guide is based in Paris, and Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

“Main Cities of Europe,” costs 14.99 pounds in the U.K. It will go on sale in France on April 4 for 22.90 euros.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)


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