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Gilly Smith

The Funk of Noma


As Noma, Copenhagen’s world class locavore restaurant opens its doors this week for a casual outdoor picnic- experience, founder and executive chef Rene Redzepi will replace his signature sea urchins in slivers of hazelnut and lobster and nasturtium with soft custard of egg yolk in a nest of potatoes with essence of rose petals with a $15 burger. But as former New York Times journalist and Redzepi disciple Jeff Gordinier tells me in my Cooking the Books podcast he will bring a realm of flavour most of us have never tasted.

Gordinier tells me in a 50-minute interview for the podcast about his rock ‘n’ roll road trip with the super-chef that Rene is not going to tell all the secrets about the new restaurant experience.  ‘But all this stuff they do, like fermentation and foraging – the two pillars of Noma cooking- they sound cliched after a while. But there’s a reason the restaurant is committed to those endeavours. And the reason is flavour… realms of flavour that you and I haven’t experienced.  My educated guess is that they’re going to apply those principles to this burger.’ 

Redzepi has announced that he will use meat garam in the burgers, and this, says Gordinier, is the key to the Noma 3.0 experience.  Describing the garam ‘like a funky fish sauce in Asia, a colatura that you might have in Italy’, he says: ‘It’s like pairing beef with its age-fermented counterpart, and that brings depth. I suspect that they’ll be little bits of greens that they’ve foraged. That’s not just a show piece. They don’t do that just to look cool. People sometimes ask me how good can Noma be? Here’s the thing, You know the colour spectrum? What if I were to tell you that there are colours out there that your eyes cannot apprehend? You cannot see the colours somehow.  And then if I give you his little pill, you would suddenly see the colours. Like the Matrix.  Well, that’s what they do at Noma with flavour, with fermentation and foraging.’

Gordinier says that what Redzepi will do will bring the funk of fermentation to his burger. ‘It’s umami’, he says, a word which he admits is overused.  ‘But umami is real’, he insists. ‘It’s a portal of flavour. It’s like the bass in a great funk song. Without it the song is still great, but it doesn’t have this bottom. And the funk of umami and fermentation, that’s the bottom.’

Listen HERE to listen to the whole episode


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