Monday, 9 December 2013

All I want for Christmas is some reindeer moss

A Work in Progress by Rene Redzepi

Bound together in 3 interdependent books, Rene Redzepi's latest creation A Work in progress, is the epitome of his creative process; thinking about what people have done for ages, and coming at it from a completely different angle. Stands to reason, the centrepiece of this collection is not the recipes, but the journal with his musings as he tries to breakdown the process of creativity.  At the time of writing Noma was No.1 restaurant in the world, so if this was still a work in progress, then what does the future hold for Rene?

The Noma recipes and snap shots, an instagram feed in your hand, plays out as part of the narrative with notes in the journal accounting for particular recipes or photos.  It reminds me of my childhood and those terrible fantasy novels where you had to flick to different chapters of the book. It's a fascinating account, even if you have no intention of making anything in the recipe book, it's a joy to behold and read. It's a surprising take on what could have easily been just another standard autobiography. An unexpected foreword from Lars Ulrich, the Metallica drummer, highlights this with a piece titled 'Unafraid'. Well worth reading in itself. 
Rene doesn't hold back in a very personal account from successes to failures and back again, almost comically littered with swearing. It doesn't leave much to the imagination what he is like in the kitchen when things hit the fan. This is more than just an insight into the goings on inside Rene's head and a snapshot of Noma for a year, it is his paradigm for success to never rest on your laurels and continually innovate, cutting against the grain of what is thought acceptable (ants anyone?). This relentless pursuit and continual innovation is present in all industries, but hardly ever do you get a 'day to day' account of the brains behind them. While others would consolidate on what is working, he refuses to let anything stagnate, except that which he ferments. Even for those not into food, I would recommend this book to understand the drive , and internal monologue, to achieve.
Noma stands out not for it's fancy, exclusive dining experience, but for it's insistence on all it's produce exclusive to the surrounding area, from winter to summer and back to the harshest winters again. This is the sources of all of his inspirations, aswell as frustrations. Imagine this in London, could it be done? Is anywhere doing street rat yet? A few chefs, have come back from Noma and set up places such as The Clove Club, Restaurant Story & Kitchen Table each with their own approach, with definite nods back to their inspiration. Kitchen Table seems to have picked up particular attention, with Ferran AdriĆ” giving it a respectable thumbs up, praise indeed. Although a notable absence from the recent update of the Michelin guide, I doubt they would give a star to a place that did more covers for hotdogs than 'proper' food, it just doesn't cut the mustard with their standards. It's probably good reason that the nearest place 'going purely local' is the Priory Bay Hotel (another notable ex-noma chef) with all produce from Isle of Wight.
The rest of the world and the UK has taken note, but with less attention to detail. Foraging is the latest trend, with more chefs tweeting 'they're off foraging' on their day off. All sounds a bit dodgy to me. I hope their partners know what they are up to. The only real change I've seen is the appearance edible flowers on dishes that appeal to the presentation rather than enhance flavour. 

The recipe book is a joy to flick through, I've even found a few that I potentially might be able to a push. From fresh fjord shrimps to black ants in creme fraiche, many (100!) infamous Noma dishes are beautifully photographed, with the briefest of notes on how to construct them. Not that many could. It's easy to lose yourself in an almost culinary fantasy of intrigue and fascination. 

No doubt on the Christmas list of many foodies tired of the same old cook books. If not it should be.


A Work in Progress is available cheapest at Amazon for £24.77

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