NOMA My Perfect Storm
What does it mean to tell
the story of a place and a time through food?
Tasmania, with our
burgeoning food industry, is all arms and legs, prepubescent, growing faster
than our intellect. We’re caught in a space between what's hip somewhere else and what we
want to be, and the seasonal and locavore instincts of our island home. Tasmania’s
palate has risen out of an Aboriginal history that saved starving white
settlers and has evolved with the stories of migration, yet we’re only
scratching the surface of what it means to translate a cultural identity to a
To tell a story of place
and time through food is not for any ordinary life. Danish Chef, Rene Redzepi,
set about to establish a cuisine anchored in place and time, and pioneered the
Nordic cuisine. He is best known for foraging – an approach to eating as old as
our oldest ancestors – and making it into art.
His restaurant in Copenhagen,
Noma, has been serving 21 courses over four hours to 45 place settings twice a day, since 2003. And he’s written a new rule book. As it has been said about Redzepi, ‘[H]e’s not cooking supper anymore, he’s
changing the world.’
Until 2 April 2016, Noma
has a pop up restaurant in Darling Harbour, The $485 per person seating (excluding
matching wines) is already booked out with people waiting for the waiting list.
If this seems extravagant then it’s worth considering the contribution Redzepi
has made to gastronomy. French, Italian and perhaps, Chinese, cuisines now dominate
Western cooking. In a little over a decade, Redzepi has sourced, experimented,
defined and determined a new approach to cooking. It’s seasonal and locavore.
You might gaffaw what seems a little old hat now, but he was there at the beginning. And it doesn’t stop there. He’s made another contribution, not as well recognised
or understood, food that reflects and celebrates cultural identity.
Tasmania is fine-tuning it
capacity to supply niche markets with quality produce. But how do we take the
next step from producing a great product to preparing and presenting it rich in
its cultural heritage? And what personal risk will we take in trying?
Coinciding with the Noma
Australia stint is the screening of the Noma
My Perfect Storm, a film about the rise and fall and rise of a Rene
Noma My Perfect Storm is a story of a pioneer. The film parallels the
racism experienced by Redzepi, a Macedonian immigrant to Denmark, and the narrative that emerged
in response to an outbreak of the Novovirus at Noma that threatened to end his
It’s no easy journey for a
first mover. As a pioneer of a new approach, Redzepi felt his fare share of
ridicule. The establishment said his Nordic focus would be limiting. When
criticism turned to name-calling like ‘seal fucker’ and ‘whale penis’ it was
In Tasmania, we’re familiar
enough with the pitfalls of the bivalve aka the teabag of the sea. A
great delicacy you can’t consume without wondering just a little. We take
warnings about oysters and mussel health seriously. This likely suspect was
initially overlooked in Redzepi’s restaurant by food authorities with claims
that the kitchen was dirty. My perfect storm tells us what it means to enjoy
the calm seas and then experience tremendous terror. The xenophobia is palpable
and the question that most resonates in the film, ‘who was he to tell the story
of Nordic cuisine?’
If Noma My Perfect Storm does just one thing, it tells us a story that
is more pervasive than the creation of a new approach to food. It is a story
about what defines culture. In the business of food, this is not a birth rite.
For Redzepi, it is going ‘deep into the ingredient’.
There is film porn a plenty
in this flick too. It shows a great talent at work. Redzepi asks, ‘[i]s
creativity luck or a second brain in your gut?’ His demand for something more
than perfection, something extraordinary, is obvious in the strain on the silent
faces of his key staff whose creations he proclaims are ‘beautiful pretty but
What makes Redzepi stand
out is that he is looking for what connects you to the land and how this is
celebrated through food. It’s not starched white shirts and silver cutlery.
‘The best chicken of my life I ate with my hands’ he says.
Noma My Perfect Storm is not a critical documentary piece. It’s more
coffee table book. Although his critics are referenced, it’s more time-lapse footage
of staff heading to their stations to fulfill their duty, and close ups
of Redzepi as he plates up. And there’s no disputing, it’s excruciatingly
gorgeous and vicariously enjoyable. Although I can’t help but think about Julia
Childs, ‘It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers
have been all over it.” Although with Redzepi’s fingers, you can be assured
that it is a masterpiece.
If you like food and
beautiful cinematography, you’ll enjoy Noma
My Perfect Storm.
And if Tasmania can take
anything from this film, it’s the drive and optimism to continue delving ‘deep
into the ingredients’, and the confidence to know and explain our own culture heritage through the plate.
Noma My Perfect Storm is
now showing at the State Cinema, North Hobart. Check out times here.
Thank you to film distributors, Umbrella Entertainment, for our courtesy tickets to the film.