Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Chef’s guide to Rome

May 18, 2012 - 4:00 pm 11 Comments


Updated April 28, 2013

So, you’re visiting Rome? Maybe for the first time? And you’re wondering where to eat and drink? I’ve had lots of requests for tips like this from friends and foodies lately. So I decided to help my everyone out  by recommending a few places around Rome that I think offer quality food, drinks and all things related. Basically “Rome from a chef’s point of view”. Yes, it’s all about eating and drinking – if you’re looking for fashion shopping tips, I’m sure there’s a blog for that too…somewhere else.

Apart from the obvious recommendation which is Ristorante Metamorfosi, the place where I am working, I propose a number of places in or near the center of Rome.
Most names on my list are places where I tend to go back time after time since I have found them to keep offering a constant high quality. The rest, a few places in here, I have found very interesting at first visit, and they have a good probability of becoming my future favorite hangouts.


Er Buchetto

This tiny hole-in-the-wall is more of a snack bar than a real restaurant, but this does not mean you will leave hungry. The name “Er Buchetto” actually means “small hole” – very suiting considering its size. This is one of those typical places that chefs love – excellent food in the simplest of ways. The place has a long history and is one of those unbeatable spots to find a bit of the atmosphere of ancient times. The porchetta is the way to go. Either as stuffing in a piece of white bread or on its own. Have a plate or two of marinated vegetables and cheese on the side and wash the whole thing down with a carafe of house red. If you’re lucky (or willing to wait) you might find a seat inside, otherwise a porchetta sandwich to-go is the perfect snack while touring the city.
Via del viminale 2F (Termini)


Just next to the Castroni shop on Via Cola di Rienzo. This is a historic bottega  in 2 sections, filled to the brim with Italian specialities. One section of the bottega offers buy-and-take-home products like cured meats, cheeses, pasta, conserves, truffles and spirits, the other part offers cooked food, both hot and cold, meant to be eaten at one of the standup tables or even taken home. Some  examples – cooked meat and fish, salads, pasta, lasagna, vegetables and one of the best Roman fast foods – supplì  - deep-fried risotto balls!
Via Cola di Rienzo 204 (Prati neighborhood)


Head to this Panini shop in the Monti neighborhood if you’re looking for a quick meal of good bread filled with Italian quality ingredients. Don’t expect to sit down since the place is tiny, and bringing your panino to the nearby piazza where seating is plentiful is a great idea anyway! You will find an ample choice of different panini and obviously beer and wine to go with that. Service is excellent and they will happily guide through their selection of panini, even in English.
Via del Boschetto 112 (Monti neighborhood)

Pastificio on Via della Croce

Pastificio is a generic name for the shop of a pasta maker. This particular pastificio makes pasta of course, but as a bonus it also serves  bargain plates of pasta for lunch on weekdays. These guys offer at least two varieties of pasta a day – all of them classic recipes from Rome and beyond. Lunch starts at 1 pm. Sharp. So sharp you can set you clock by it. Probably the only thing in Rome that begins on announced time. For 4 € you get a fresh pasta dish served on a plastic plate and then you help yourself to a glass of wine at the counter and some water from the bottles at the tables. A couple of minutes before 1 pm a line will start to form and business begins, so be there on time. Some examples of what might be served here are tonnarelli cacio e pepe, meat-filled ravioli, gnocchetti with tomato and tuna sauce, taglioini with butter, ham and green peas or amatriciana.
Via della Croce 8 (Centro storico)

Roscioli - Salumeria e Ristorante

Roscioli is a upscale delicatessen-cum-restaurant where you can have a outstanding lunch or dinner. Start off with  some cold cuts, burrata with sun dried tomatoes and a dish of pasta. The Roman classics  Carbonara, Cacio e pepe and Amatriciana are prime choices. They also have loads of foodie bling-bling to take home – oils, pastas, jams, salts, wines and so much more.
Via dei Giubbonari 21 (Centro Storico)
Tel: +39 06 6875287

Antico Forno Roscioli

This is one of the best bakeries in town, serving sandwiches made-to-order and sublime thin-crust pizza as well as selling delicious  bread, pastries and scrumptious biscotti. Try the pizza bianca with a slice of mortadella, the pizza rossa and a handful of “brutti ma buoni” cookies for those with a sweet tooth.
Via dei Chiavari 34 (Centro Storico)


A definite foodie destination – even featured in Anthony Bourdains No Reservations.
Gabriele Bonci makes pizza al taglio (by the slice) extraordinaire. Slowly risen dough, first-class flour and highest quality topping ingredients makes for a special treat. (And a higher-than-normal price)
Apart from pizzas with both classic toppings and loony new combinations, Bonci has some of Rome’s best deep-fried rice balls.
Via della Meloria 43 (Vatican)


Situated in the Parioli district, just north of the city center. This modern restaurant holds one Michelin star and serves contemporary cuisine with Italian flavors interpreted by young chefs. This is the place to go when you want to splurge on a memorable meal with first-class service, or just to enjoy a contrast to pizzas and pasta-laden trattorias.
Via Giovanni Antonelli 30/32 (Parioli neighborhood)
Tel: +39 06 8076839

Antico Arco

On top of the Gianicolo Hill (which is just west of the Trastevere neighborhood) you will find this restaurant that successfully blends traditional flavors and modern preparations in a contemporary setting. Service is friendly and what comes out of the kitchen is proof of the chef’s solid skills. Try the varm mozzarella in crispy phyllo dough or the anchovy, burrata and zucchini flower gratin. Don’t miss the carbonara with truffles or the excellent amatriciana.
Piazzale Aurelio 7 (Janiculum Hill)
Tel: +39 06 5815274

La Gatta Mangiona
In Monteverde, south-west of the center and just next to the Pamphilj park you find this restaurant and pizzeria. The atmosphere here is noisy and effervescent - just the way it’s supposed to be in Rome!
This place offers an extensive menu, so finding something for everyone’s taste shouldn’t be a problem. The menu includes some of the best fritti in town - crispy supplì with new and old flavor pairings, deep-fried zucchini flowers, baccalà and potato crocchette – then a long list of pizzas from their wood-burning oven, and on to tweaked pastas and secondi from the traditional cuisine. They offer a nice selection of wines and artisan beers. And don’t forget to scrutinize the chalkboard thoroughly – the seasonal specials here are well worth a try.
Via Federico Ozanam 30 (Monteverde neigborhood)
Tel: +39 06 5346702

Nanà Vini e Cucina

In an extremely central location like this (just next to Fontana di Trevi) finding a decent place to eat can often be a nightmare. Romans themselves steer clear of these areas when it comes to dining since it’s hard to find a restaurant that actually serves you anything that could be categorized as flavorful and genuine. Nanà is an exception to that rule. The restaurant offers Neapolitan cuisine with simple but very tasty seafood dishes, pastas and pizza. Good coffee and traditional Neapolitan desserts.
Via della Panetteria 37 (Centro storico)
Tel: +39 06 69190750

Da Danilo

A very good trattoria choice on the Esquiline Hill, not far from the main station Termini. The obvious picks here are the traditional pastas, especially Carbonara and Cacio e pepe. The mixed antipasti is a great way to start your meal.
Via Petrarca 13 (Termini)
Tel: +39 06 77200111

Trattoria Monti

Another good restaurant on the Esquiline Hill, just a few minutes walk from the Termini station. The cuisine has its roots in the Italian region “Le Marche” which is situated on Italy’s east coast, between mountain and sea. Although one might find inspiration from other regions on the menu, many of the dishes are classics from the Cucina Marchigiana.
Via di San Vito 13 (Termini)
Tel: +39 06 4466573

Tempio di Iside

Never mind the service which at times can be more than a bit confusing. Come here for the food. Excellent raw and cooked seafood starters, as well as risotto “frutti di mare” and pastas.  For main course fresh fish and seafood can be chosen from a display and cooked to order. It can seem a bit pricey, but it’s still great value for money when we’re talking really fresh seafood.
Via Pietro Verri 11 (On the corner of Via Labicana)
Tel: +39 06 700 4741


I would no doubt dub this one of Rome’s best pizzerias. The pizzas here are much closer to the Neapolitan thick-crust style than the Roman thin-crust style. The soft dough is carefully crafted from quality flour and is left to ferment and rise slowly with great results. You can find both traditional toppings and more creative combinations.
Its location is a bit out of the way, but with the Metro A line it’s still pretty easy to reach.
Via Statilio Ottato 110/116
Tel: +39 06 7154 6118


Pizzeria Tonda is actually a cousin of Pizzeria Sforno, and you notice it by looking at the menu which offers basically the same selection of well-executed pizzas and excellent deep-fried appetizers. The spot is a bit out of the way in an residential area and you might want to catch a cab to get there. Tonda has one ace up its sleeve though, it’s open on Sundays!
Via Valle Corteno 31 (Montesacro neighborhood)
Tel: +39 06 8180960

Pizzeria Florida

Very good “pizza al taglio” (by the slice) in a great downtown location, where trying a few different pizza slices won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Great place for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack while sightseeing in the neighborhood.
Via Florida 25 (Just across from Largo Argentina)

Excellent fritti, supplì and pastas. Chef Arcangelo Dandini serves very finely executed versions of classic Roman dishes. This is upscale “Cucina Romana” at its best.
Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli 59 (Prati neighborhood)
Tel: +39 06 3210992


Mondo di Laura
When I don’t bake my own cookies, this is my supplier. Laura Raccah bakes cookies and baked goods with inspiration from Tel Aviv, London and New York. All products are kosher, made from organic ingredients and are sold in very cute, gift-friendly packaging. The best and most convenient place to buy them is Lauras little shop in the Ghetto. Don’t forget to try the cookie named “Pepita” – dark chocolate chip cookies with pink Himalayan salt. Divine!
Via del Portico d’Ottavia 6 (Ghetto)


Does anyone of you like chocolate? This is a real chocolate factory from 1923, renovated in later years and now complete with chocolate shop, café, bar and restaurant – decorated with old chocolate moulds and factory equipment.  The buffet lunch is good value for money and the setting is nice. A bonus is that you from here have a great possibility to explore the San Lorenzo neighborhood where most tourists never go.
Via Tiburtina 135 (San Lorenzo neighborhood)


Old-school pastry shop where both décor, recipes and flavors are well conserved from an epoch long before I was born. The shop dates back to 1916 but the pastries are fresh! You won’t find fancy looking cakes or patisserie a la francaise, but you will find classic Roman sweets and a variety of simple but tasty calorie bombs.
Via dello Statuto 60 (Termini)


Mercato Esquilino

This is a cool place to visit even if you’re not planning on doing any actual grocery shopping. Definitely the most multi-cultural market in Rome is situated just a stone’s throw away from Termini train station. Here you will find - in addition to the common fish, meat, vegetables and fruits – heaps of exotic ingredients from Asia, Africa, South America and beyond.
Via Principe Amadeo & Via Ricasoli (Termini)

Mercato di Campagna Amica del Circo Massimo

This Farmer’s market is held every weekend in the Circus Maximus neighborhood, bringing regional produce (fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, wine, olive oil etc) from all over the Lazio area closer to the city people. Here you will find good local products offered at honest prices straight from its producers. And it’s a lot of fun to walk around here too, especially when you observe how much the offered produce changes from season to season. Open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Via di San Teodoro 74 (Circus Maximus)


On a cobble-stone street in the Monti neighborhood (and just next to Tricolore bakery) you find this charming little boutique in the herb-dealing business. This is a real promised land for a chef, with a huge amount of fresh herbs in pots, shoots, leaves, salads, spices, seeds, plant growing utensils and more. Simply put, a great place to go when you need to add some herby fragrance to your cooking (or your balcony).  At Aromaticus, owners Luca and Francesca also serves light lunches from 1pm. Herb-filled salads, fish carpaccio, and hand chopped steak tartare are some examples from the menu. For sure, a shop of this type is bound to become all the rage among us city dwellers.  Even the old Roman retirees living across the street has learned to pronounce “urban farming” in near perfect English.
Via Urbana 134 (Monti neighborhood)

Er Cimotto

This is the greengrocer I go to when I need to find something out of the ordinary. It can be an exotic fruit, a hard-to-find vegetable or a particular berry. They always carry a good selection of fresh herbs as well as bread, pasta and other staples.
Piazza della Malva 6 (Trastevere neighborhood)

La Tradizione

One of my favorite shops in Rome. Few places has such an outstanding selection of quality cured meats and salami. A fair selection of interesting cheeses makes it even harder not to buy more than you planned.
While you’re in the neighborhood don’t forget to stop by Pizzarium for a pizza slice, it’s just a few steps away.
Via Cipro 8 (Vatican)

Beppe e i suoi formaggi

This cheese (and wine) shop in the Ghetto carries an impressive selection of cheeses from both Italy and France. There’s also salumi , rustic bread and a selection of gourmet products. You can buy to take home or sit down and eat in the small wine bar section.
Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9a/11 (Ghetto)


This gourmet food shop has multiple locations throughout the city. Here you will find tons of food and ingredients from all over the world – a wonderland for expats and exchange students looking for a taste of home – or for a chef looking for unusual ingredients. They are also well-known for their own coffee blends and in some of their locations they serve very good coffee, in others I prefer to  just stay away from the coffee.
The biggest and best Castroni shop is on Via Cola di Rienzo 196. (Prati neighborhood)

When you are looking for kitchen equipment and tools, this should be one of your first stops. A well-stocked shop with a good mix of home kitchen tools and professional gear. Peroni sells a multitude of products ranging from knives, pots&pans, home appliances, utensils and drinking accessories to a big selection of pastry molds and necessities. Maybe you are looking for some Italian specials like an automated ravioli maker, a parmesan grater or the useful tagliapuntarelle?
Piazza dell’Unità 29 (Prati neighborhood)


La Barrique

Wine bar in the Monti area with a nice atmosphere, a good selection of Italian and French wines and a small but well-composed menu of tasty dishes, ranging from cheese and cold cuts to scrumptious pastas and classic main courses.
Via del Boschetto 41 (Monti neighborhood)

Open Baladin

This is the place to enjoy a great selection of Italian craft beer both on tap and bottled. They also serve quite a range of beer-friendly fare - burgers, flavored potato chips, fried scrocchette and pastas. The atmosphere is very informal and the comfy sofas can easily make you stay longer than planned.
Via Degli Specchi 6 (Centro Storico)


Small and unpretentious little beer pub where all the passion and energy goes into selecting and serving many great beers from around the world. Staff is exceptionally good at guiding drinkers in choosing the right beer according to their taste.
Via Benedetta 25 (Trastevere neighborhood)


An amazing beer pub with a wide selection of international beers and whiskys. Decent pub grub too! Slightly off the beaten track for tourists but well worth the effort to seek out. Open late, until 4 in the morning Thursday to Saturday (to 2 am the other days). Can’t get any better!
Via Portuense 82 (Between Trastevere and Testaccio neighborhoods)

Il Goccetto

A nice long list of wines by the glass makes this a great place. Pair this with friendly service and some traditional Italian snacks and we have a winner.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi 14 (Centro Storico)


If you want to learn more about Italian wines, here’s an excellent start. I went to a very interesting tasting a couple of years ago with Vinoroma founder Hande Leimer and have been a proud supporter ever since. Vinoroma does guided tastings, seminars, wine & cheese lunches and more. Tastings are held in a downtown wine studio with a thousand year old wine cellar.

Vino al Vino

This is a small neighborhood wine bar, often packed with wine lovers and quite noisy but it’s the perfect place to hang out with locals. They serve simple cold and hot fare, cheese and cold cuts, pies and their legendary caponata. The wine list is interesting and the prices are very reasonable.
Via dei Serpenti 19 (Monti neighborhood)

Caffè Paranà

This café serves a good espresso, and the fact that it is just in front of the Termini station makes it the best shot in this area.
Piazza dei Cinquecento 39 (Termini)

Tazza d’Oro

Just steps away from Pantheon, this is one of my favorite coffee roasters in Rome and a good place to start exploring Rome from a coffee drinker’s perspective.  Apart from the normal espresso, one of their big sellers is the Granita di caffè con panna, coffee granita with whipped cream – a good way to cool down in summer.
Via degli Orfani 84 (Centro storico)

Ai Tre Scalini

This charming little place in the Monti neighborhood can be found in the ivy-covered building on Via Panisperna (between Serpenti and Boschetto). It’s the perfect place for an after-dinner drink on a warm summer’s night. Usually packed with people both indoors and outdoors, occupying (more correctly “blocking”) the narrow street outside.
Via Panisperna 251 (Monti neighborhood)

Domus Birrae

Beer! My shop and tasting area of choice - drink-in or take out. Vast assortment of artisan beers, especially from Italy and Northern Europe. They also sell all the supplies needed by a home brewer.
Via Cavour 8 (Monti neighborhood)

Salotto 42

This is the wine bar of choice for a chunk of Rome’s chic crowd when having an aperitivo or an evening drink. The bar itself is very stylish and quite welcoming, but my favorite custom (especially on a warm summer’s evening) is to take my drink outside into the small Piazza di Pietra and marvel over the 11 gigantic columns of Tempio di Adriano just in front of the bar.
Piazza di Pietra 42 (Centro Storico)


No doubt some of the best gelato in Rome is to be found in this hole in the wall shop conveniently located in the Monti neighborhood. An array of flavors ranging from traditional zabaione, stracciatella or pistacchio to more modern creations like pear and gorgonzola, tobacco-flavoured chocolate or Amarena cherry and beer. Although having been open for less than a year, its new location on a quiet backstreet piazza, has quickly made it a favorite spot. Ice cream lovers from all over Rome as well as tourists queue up here on sunny days. Piazza degli Zingari 5 (Monti neighborhood)

Gelateria dei Gracchi
On fair walking distance from the Vatican, this is the perfect spot for an ice cream after a visit to the Pope’s crib. Great gelato made from fresh ingredients and seasonal fruits makes this a favorite spot with both locals and visitors.
Hazelnut, pistacchio and chocolate & rum are three praised classics to try.
Via dei Gracchi, 272 (Prati neighborhood)

Neve di Latte

Excellent gelateria close to the Maxxi museum in the Flaminio neighborhood, just north of the city center. Slightly off the beaten track maybe, but well worth the hike, especially in combination with a visit to the museum. They don’t have a very big selection of flavors, but the ones they do have are spot on! Both their pistacchio and hazelnut ice creams are illegally good.
Via Luigi Poletti 6 (Flaminio neighborhood)


Katie Parla

Whenever I have doubts about any food or eating-related issue in Rome, I usually turn to Katie Parla, an authority on the subject of eating out in Rome. She’s got both a nice blog (Parla Food) with lots of information about Rome, as well as a superb app called Katie Parla’s Rome with tons of suggestions on food, drinks and shopping.
You can even book a private food tour of Rome with this lady!


Now have a great time in Rome!

Noma - The Epic Meal

May 20, 2011 - 8:35 am No Comments

Noma – the Copenhagen restaurant where chef René Redzepi celebrates Nordic produce in an innovative way. In April Noma was named the “World’s Best Restaurant” by San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants list for its second consecutive year.
For an introduction to the restaurant, check out my previous post.

After the time I spent working in the kitchen at Noma it would have felt strange to leave without actually experiencing “the other side”, assuming the role of guest in the restaurant. This meal was for me the highlight of Copenhagen and a perfect goodbye before taking off. It is incredibly satisfying to be conscious of what is going on behind the scenes and how much hard work goes into the food, while you are munching along in the dining room.

Many restaurants use the words “gastronomic journey” inaccurately to define their menu. Noma is one of the few restaurants I consider to truthfully take you on a gastronomic journey during a meal. A trip through the landscapes of Denmark, hills of Iceland, seas of Färöe Islands, fjords of Norway and forests of Sweden. Here you are served ingredients sourced from the whole Nordic region, but with a certain emphasis on produce from the directly adjacent area. Your chef or waiter will happily give you more information than you can handle on each ingredient, its origin, properties, season and age.

This Danish star restaurant represents a kitchen nature - where chef Redzepi doesn’t want to go about altering too much what was given to us by Mother Earth. Instead he creates a cuisine built to express the seasons in this northern region. The truth is that the farther away from the equator you move, the bigger the changes in climate throughout the year, each season thus being more distinct. This fact influences all aspects of life, but most notably, the outcome of all growing things.
Many of the ingredients used at Noma are actually hand-picked Nordic produce, specially chosen for being of absolute top quality. Having a direct relationship with every supplier, without middle-men, votes for the possibility of obtaining nothing but the best.
This very particular food is served in a setting of pure Scandinavian design. The dining room has been carefully furnished and decorated in a way that complements the outside of the house and harmonizes with its location.
One corner of the dining room has been reserved for the glass-walled kitchen where you can see the chefs working.

The dining room at Noma has two very different faces, lunchtime and dinnertime. They’re like night and day. No really. Lunch, with its natural daylight entering the large windows making the dining room feel spacious and graceful.
Dinner gives you a more intimate candle-lit experience with the contrast of light and shadows giving you a feeling of being separated from the other diners.
Patrons are mixed, all from young people in jeans and short sleeves to tie-clad businessmen out for a work-related dinner.

During a Noma meal you will be served a flood of very visually appealing dishes, nonetheless flavor will always be paramount. It might look incredibly complex (and probably did require hours and hours of preparation) but at the end of the day it is just purely delicious food made from prime ingredients. In Noma’s dishes you find both terroir and a purity of flavor that remains unparalleled.
Sometimes it is bewitching simplicity that makes the greatest impact. Like a little piece of nature plated and delivered to your table.
Much of Noma’s fame derives from sourcing ingredients and material that very few people have tasted, heard of or don’t have ready access to.
Bringing in products that are virtually unknown to the public or hard to get - like the dived scallops flown in from Norway - has its price. Many of the ingredients used at Noma cost way more than any normal person would think about paying for food.

Langoustine and oyster emulsion served on warm stone

A wonderful thing with Noma’s dishes is that every element on the plate has equal right of existence, be it vegetable, meat or herb. And every ingredient plays its own important role in building the dish’s identity. There are no vegetables hidden under a slab of meat, just to act as support or to give height. And likewise every ingredient has a purpose, no powders or flowers sprinkled randomly, unrelated to the dish, chosen just based on their color or shape.
Plating is so natural, so free-flowing, so intuitive. It’s almost like the ingredients themselves had agreed on how they wanted to be arranged on the plate, and the end result is stunning – simply beautiful.

Special mention must be done for the large choice of freshly made juices that can be paired with the tasting menu, making even the teetotaler feel loved.

Beetroot, brown cheese and blackcurrant

One of the most incredible things is how I, after a 4-hour-meal with more dishes than I could count, stand up from my chair and I feel light, light as a bird. No feeling heavy, no bulging stomach. Compared to a pasta-laden Italian tasting menu, this is a sort of revelation. Amazed I walk out of the restaurant, thanking everyone sincerely and utter in a Schwarzeneggerish-way: “I’ll be back”.

My time and place at Noma

May 16, 2011 - 9:20 am 4 Comments


I often get the question “what type of restaurant is Noma really?”
It’s a very valid question from someone who has never been there, but perhaps has heard its billing as “the World’s best restaurant” and bastion of modern regional Nordic cuisine. I wrote a bit about the New Nordic cuisine concept in this other post.

Noma facade

I usually summarize Noma as being as far from classic fine dining as any restaurant possibly could be. The restaurant itself is housed in an old 18th century whaling warehouse on the Copenhagen docks. The building has been brilliantly restored and now houses not only Noma, but also a center for art and culture of the whole North Atlantic region. This setting – the ancient waterfront trade dock is a beautiful one, although quite unpretentious in its simplicity.

Once inside the restaurant; this place lets you experience a spectacle, an interactive performance more than a regular sit-down-and-be-fed-meal. There’s much more conversation between guests and staff, opinions are shared, questions are asked, facts are told. You may even be lucky enough to cook one of the dishes right at the table.
Something that started long ago at Noma and now is replicated in so many restaurants around the world is its chefs taking part in the food service. It’s a kind of evolution of the Japanese tradition where chefs directly serve guests sitting at the bar confining the kitchen. At Noma chefs leave their posts in the kitchen to bring the dishes to the table and in a calm and informative way explain its components and their origin. This creates a unique feeling of ownership and pride for the staff – and who could be better suited to answer questions about techniques or flavors than the chefs themselves? The service from the waiting staff is equally down-to-earth, honest and courteous and makes you feel comfortable in your chair.

Working in the kitchen

Early morning - The kitchen really starts rolling at 8:30 in the morning. Before that, only the AM team (starting before 6 am) dwells in the Noma galley. They fire up the Noma engine each day – executing many of the lengthy tasks in the kitchen; making fresh juices, toasts for the snack section, scraping chicken skin, blanching leeks and smoking eggs. At 8:30 there’s a wave of people hitting the kitchen – knives in hand. Everyone’s pulls out their respective ingredients, chefs instruct stagiaires, chopping boards are set up, and, in another corner of the kitchen, the eternal herb picking starts. (Throughout the four seasons, Noma uses roughly 100 different types of herbs, leaves, shoots and wild plants).

11:30 – Lunchtime briefing with the whole staff
One of the most significant things that I will bring with me from Noma and implement in future positions, is the use of short briefings with the whole staff - chefs, waiters and stagiaires – before each service. Not many restaurants do this, but it’s a critical moment for the chefs and the waiters to snap up the latest facts – number of guests, arrival times, allergies, special requests and potential problems. From a stagiaire’s point of view it’s equally interesting and it makes you feel like a part of the team, au courant with the day’s happenings, and not just like an herb-picking robot.

17:00 - The only real break during the long days is for staff meal (or family meal as it’s also called); 45 min of happiness, joy, amusement, relaxation and recharge. Everyone has their own ritual to get ready for yet another service. Someone spends 10 minutes eating and 30 minutes on the phone, another hurries out after the meal to have one, two, three cigarettes. A third tries to get a power-nap in his chair while another instead locks himself into the bathroom for some peace and quiet.

17:45 - The second pre-service staff briefing of the day.
For a couple of hours, the guests eating in the restaurant are our very close friends” says René.

00:30 - Staff meeting, evaluating the day and presenting facts about tomorrow.

00:48 - Saturday night projects:
Every Saturday night, after dinner service, the mise en place is put away and the kitchen is cleaned. But, hold on, it’s not quite time to go home just yet. It is Project night - the chefs from the different sections of the kitchen present a dish of their creation to the rest of the staff, letting them taste it and in return receive feedback and thoughts. It’s a sort of incentive to be creative outside the daily work. It’s also a fabulous way to study how the other chefs think about food, how they manage to express themselves with food. Anyone is welcome to present a dish, chefs and apprentices, as well as stagiaires.

01:53 - Now that the day finally is over, the only thing that stands between work and the evening goodbye is the locker room. Here 40 people change before heading off home into the Danish night. Try putting all those shoes, used for more than 15 hours, in a small room together with chef’s jackets perfuming of fish, herbs and braising liquids. No surprise everyone is in a hurry!


The drive behind Noma

Fine dining in the modern meaning of the word, according to me, refers to the care with which the ingredients have been sourced and prepared in the kitchen, as well as the way the guests are cared for and the way the food is presented in the dining room. It’s not about white tablecloths, valet parking or waiters in tuxedos with fake smiles anymore.
Here I feel that the New Nordic cooking is setting a sort of standard with its low-key and minimalist approach to cooking and serving, still pushing the envelope in terms of ingredient quality.
But, this blessing of using only the best ingredients it’s not something that comes cheaply. It takes incredible amounts of time to source them (at Noma one of the sous-chefs has the responsibility of keeping a good relationship with the nearly 100 suppliers, butchers, fishermen, and foragers).
In wintertime it can be rather hard and sometimes even frustrating to try to find fresh and interesting ingredients. During the colder months the North seems to have a limited array of flavors, forcing you to work your creativity on what’s at hand. But as the old saying goes: “Seek and ye shall find” - and that is just what René and his team has done during many winters, finding both common and uncommon (but certainly edible) things.
Surely some ingredients or cuts of meat have raised eyebrows - like the live Danish fjord shrimps (eaten live. Yes, live.) and reindeer tongue. But ultimately these ingredients are not at all about producing a shocking effect. It all comes down to serving truly delicious food from the Nordic region and a wish to go your own way, being as far from “trendy” as possible.
Quite a few of the ingredients in the restaurant are served raw, or nearly. Somehow it would be a shame to modify the flavor of them too much over the fire.
Chef René often points out that if you know all about the origins of the produce you are cooking, maybe you’ve seen it grow or even picked it yourself; it’s harder to perform an unfair massacre on it in the kitchen. At Noma you learn to respect your ingredients in a unique way.



The common kitchen language is English since there are people from literally all over the world working here. Although I personally understand Danish, most of the people (I counted 15 different nationalities) do not – making English the obvious choice over Mandarin, Russian or Spanish.
In a place as big as Noma (with a staff of 60 or so persons) it’s imperative to have a smooth, collaborating and very hierarchically structured organization. A bit like a military squadron, orders running through the ranks in a well-ordered manner.
Another great strength at Noma is the pure number of workers. If anyone should run into trouble or unforeseen difficulties during preparations, there are always enough helping hands around to resolve any potentially bad situation.
I must say I have rarely seen a kitchen with so much energy, a vibrating feeling from a constant adrenaline flow. So many people giving their all with a sole objective – to serve every guest a perfect and memorable meal—is truly unique. This is not always an easy task in the harsh environment of a professional kitchen. Everything is subject to rigorous inspection and any mistake is rectified immediately. Chefs must withstand plenty of stress, tough attitudes, and live up to first-class quality demands, all while serving the guests with a smile.
The chefs of different ranks sacrifice a lot for their job, even their spare time, offering their services as early as 6 o’clock in the morning to forage in parks and on beaches around Copenhagen. And finding time for partner or family can be quite hard. Many of the chefs at Noma are also far away from their home countries, which makes it even more difficult to keep these remote social contacts alive. Therefore you often end up spending even your free time with collegues – making work and social life blend into one.

Chef René Redzepi

René was born in Copenhagen in 1977, son of a Danish mother and a Macedonian Muslim father. As a child he spent his summers in Macedonia (ex-Yugoslavia) with the family on his father’s side. They were living a traditional farm life, eating what they could grow and milking their own cows. This experience in southern Europe was of course much different to the life in Denmark in those years. It’s also something that has influenced the way he cooks and the way he approaches food nowadays. Growing up between two different cultural heritages has been a big advantage for Redzepi. When faced with Scandinavian ingredients he has been able to create a whole new way of cooking with them, without having hands tied by local traditions.

The Spanish gastronome and food critic Rafael García Santos said something special about Chef Redzepi during an event we attended in Spain. “Every time I eat in a new restaurant, anywhere in the world, I can always pin-point from which mentor the chef got his inspiration – with René I can’t! And this is a beautiful thing. I truly do not know where he gets his inspiration from.”
Well Rafael, let me tell you the answer to that question: From nature itself. That’s what is genius about him.