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Noma, World’s Best Restaurant, is Closing

The three-Michelin-star Copenhagen restaurant, which has been ranked the world's number one restaurant a record five times, will close its doors by the end of next year

by Michael Quinn

January 9, 2023

An exterior view of Noma / Photo: Northfoto/Shutterstock

Noma—widely known as one of the world’s best restaurants—has announced it will close, with Chef Rene Redzepi declaring the fine-dining model that made him so wildly successful is unsustainable.

The Copenhagen restaurant opened in 2003 and went relatively unnoticed initially. That changed in 2010, when Noma earned the top spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, continuing to do so an unprecedented five times over the next twelve years, solidifying it as a culinary powerhouse and one of the pioneers of the ‘New Nordic’ food movement.

Its spectacular tasting menus—including such delicacies as grilled reindeer heart and monkfish liver—don’t come cheap, with bills regularly exceeding $500 per person. So, one might wonder, why is such a lucrative operation closing its doors?

“Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work,” said Redzepi.

Pigs’ cheeks with potato cakes, beetroot glaze, and scorzonera with leek ash / Photo: Aynia Brennan/Shutterstock

Despite the eye-watering prices, fine dining is not always a profitable pursuit. Redzepi has said that Noma did not make him wealthy, with his focus on the top ingredients and seamless service superseding profits. 2021 saw Noma lose money as, like many other restaurants, it struggled in a post-Covid world.

Noma faced another financial blow last year. For a long time, it had relied on unpaid interns to perform some of the ‘simpler’ tasks (that’s if you view assembling edible stag beetles out of fruit leather as rudimentary). However, October 2022 saw interns added to the payroll at a total cost of $50,000 a month, Redzepi told the New York Times.

Finances aside, fine-dining work culture has faced significant criticism over the past decade. Unscrupulous employers have been called out for their behavior; with many high-end restaurants being skewered for their grueling work hours, bullying behavior and low pay. Noma has faced its fair share of these accusations, and Redzepi claims he was no longer able to balance his staff’s needs against the requirements of his restaurant’s impeccably high standards.

A slice of Noma’s plankton cake / Photo: Salvador Maniquiz/Shutterstock

If you never managed to get a reservation at Noma, there’s still a chance. The restaurant is taking bookings through the end of next year, although the news of its imminent closure will no doubt result in a flurry of interest.  When regular service has ended, Noma will live on as a food laboratory, continuing to push boundaries via its Noma Projects online store.