Well, we called it - René Redzepi's Noma reclaimed first place this year at the prestigious World's Best Restaurants awards. Noma first received the honor in 2010 and held steady through 2012, but came in second last year to Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, which retreated to second place in this year's rankings. T+L's Adam Sachs recently caught up with the revered chef in New York City.
A pocket-size mutt stares intently up at René Redzepi through the window of Tacos Morelos, a four-table taqueria in New York’s East Village. We’ve over-ordered—tongue tacos and fish tacos and house-made tortillas folded around a stewy, soft thing called suadero. This might seem an unlikely place to lunch with the charming forager, chef of Copenhagen’s Noma, chief progenitor of the New Nordic style, and accidental ringleader for a generation of international chef dudes. But René Redzepi is really into tacos. Enough so that his next venture will be helping Noma’s sous-chef, Rosio Sanchez, open a new taco shop in Copenhagen called Hija de Sanchez. (Yes, there are Mexican restaurants in Copenhagen. No, they’re not any good. “You’ve got Danish students in sombreros serving you,” Redzepi says, sadly. “You want to punch them.”)
Redzepi’s in town to promote his book-in-three-parts, A Work in Progress: Journal, Recipes, and Snapshots. The collection includes a substantial recipe roundup, a slim volume of iPhone pics, and, most engagingly personal, an unvarnished diary about the struggle for creative breakthrough. “We might be ten years in, but if I look at it from a dining perspective for us, for our region, our city, we’re like infants. Travel to Japan and you really see how young we are. There are so many exciting things to explore.”
A final flight of tacos arrives. Carnitas; another we can’t remember ordering. “Wonderful,” Redzepi pronounces. “It’s just a tortilla, but a tortilla is a very complex thing.” The first time he had authentic tacos was on a trip to Mérida years ago. The night he arrived, he tried tacos al pastor. “I used to hate tacos,” he says. “But it was the first real Mexican food I’d ever had and I was blown away. I was totally hooked.”
We look out at cold, gray New York. “Now I’m just missing Mexico,” the chef says.
Adam Sachs is a T+L contributing editor.