I had the pleasure of interviewing Rene at Noma in August 2015. The entire interview was published in the Dolce Vita magazine, here I am publishing it in chapters. This is chapter 6 – the last one. Read also introduction (about interviewing Rene) , chapter 1 (about Rene’s origins) , chapter 2 (on sustainability), chapter 3 (on ingredients and locality), chapter 4 (on young talents) and chapter 5 (on leadership).
Noma has in January 2015 moved for five weeks to Tokyo, in January 2016 they are moving for three months to Australia. Rene explained in many interviews that main motivation for these trips was never promotion of Noma but an inspiration and pleasure for the entire team. Getting to know new environments and cultures opens new views and provokes development of new ideas. I wanted to know how was his experience of Tokyo and what does he expect from Australia.
Tokyo was an exceptional experience. We are still in the phase of putting all the impressions into order. Japanese culture is so multilayered and we have now reached maybe only the fifth of hundred layers. We went there to have a great time, to explore and experience something new with our team. It was wonderful to live five weeks in a country where food culture is simply exceptional – and I am talking about the simple eateries where you can have a fantastic meal without spending much money as well as kaiseki, the Japanese haute cuisine with many, also 16, courses. This exists in Japan already for 400 years! Experiencing this, seeing how people enjoy their food, is exceptional. Japan is like another planet, Australia is culturally much closer to us, the difference is in the nature, which is amazing. If I am completely honest: my main motivation for Australia was to travel – Australia is like paradise on Earth. Beside that we will escape from the cold Danish winter into summer and all the team is looking forward to this. Also fifty children of the employees will join us – they will go to school there. Everybody wants to be part of this adventure.
Any special wish for the future?
First thing: I wish more children. (smiling)
Businesswise instead I am in front of a challenge to reach a higher financial stability. To explain better – Noma is able to pay the employees on the level of other similar restaurants, we are covered in that sense, but we all know this is not enough. Noma was a group of young enthusiastic people, but now those people have families, they wish more children, they need to take family for vacation, they have to pay leases for their homes … My restaurant manager could be approached by a hotel director tomorrow who could offer him triple of what I can offer. My restaurant manager is amazing – he is great at his job, he is loyal (and 8 years at Noma is a great reference!), so it would be easy for him to get a better paid job. Once you have a family enthusiasm is not enough anymore and we have a real “baby boom” at Noma in this moment. I had to find a way to pay my team well enough so they will feel motivated to stay with me. Noma alone can’t cover all this anymore, that’s why I am planning a second more accessible restaurant with more covers. Such a restaurant where each of us would love to eat. A very good restaurant where you can have an excellent meal without spending a fortune – a place you can visit more often.
Noma is like a big family – we have created it together. I don’t want to imagine to find myself in the future surrounded by strangers, so my main goal in this moment is creating a higher income to be able to reward people who I respect and love, people who are creating the Noma’s story with me.
This is the last chapter of the interview from August 2015. Three days ago has Rene officially announced the new restaurant. More about 108, the new restaurant, read here.
by Andreja Lajh