Noma, the Copenhagen three-star Michelin restaurant that regularly tops lists of the world’s best, is officially closing for regular service at the end of 2024, The New York Times reports.
The restaurant will now shift its focus on becoming a full-time food laboratory, where new dishes and culinary related products will be produced for the brand’s new e-commerce operation, Noma Projects.
The reasoning behind the move comes as a result of Noma and a number of other elite restaurants facing backlash over their treatment of staff – with many of them paid poorly, or in some cases, not at all.
The restaurant’s creator, René Redzepi, said that the taxing hours are required to produce the restaurant’s world-famous cuisine. He also claimed that compensating almost 100 employees adequately, while ensuring high standards are met, is not workable.
“We have to completely rethink the industry,” he told The New York Times. “This is simply too hard, and we have to work in a different way.”
Earlier this year, the pressure on Redzepi intensified with media reports criticising the restaurant for its treatment of foreign workers and their overreliance on unpaid interns to keep the business alive. Noma finally began paying its interns in October, which added a huge cost of at least $50,000 in labour expenses.
Over the past few years, Redzepi and his staff continued to assert themselves as one of the most prominent names in the culinary industry, resulting their third Michelin star. Also, Noma in now ineligible for future wins in the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list after retaining the title for a record breaking fifth time
However, Redzepi admitted that operating at the high level that has earned Noma international recognition had long felt “unsustainable.” But it wasn’t until the Covid pandemic had kept him at home that, for the first time, he started to question the entire business model of the restaurant. “Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work,” he said of the model that he helped create.
Redzepi, who has been cooking professionally since age 15, said that Noma had not made him wealthy due to his commitment to high-quality ingredients and unmatched execution being so costly. He claimed that future commitments and building Noma Projects – which will include a new production facility with 60 to 70 employees – are why the restaurant won’t be closing for nearly two years.
“I hope we can prove to the world that you can grow old and be creative and have fun in the industry,” he said. “Instead of hard, gruelling, low-paid work under poor management conditions that wears people out.”