Plans for the future
Redzepi’s decision comes at a time of heightened public scrutiny over the treatment of high-end restaurants towards their workers. Many find themselves poorly paid or unpaid as interns, despite being part of the teams that create the world’s finest dishes. The social factor, like the environmental factor, is becoming more and more important to consumers, and they are showing less and less tolerance for companies that have similar practices. Noma’s style, for which the restaurant became famous, is highly innovative, but also time-consuming and especially expensive. To the NYTimes, Redzepi, who makes no secret that his kitchen requires many grueling hours of labor, now says that the math for paying Noma’s nearly 100 employees fairly at high standards and prices the market can still bear just doesn’t add up. “We have to completely rethink the industry, we have to work differently,” he says.
Many other chefs from premium restaurants share this opinion. The publication cited chef David Kinch, who recently closed his three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, California. He says the last 30 years have been a golden era in which fine dining has become much more exciting, but the burden and cost of the work has been “crushing” for staff. “Fine dining is at a crossroads and there needs to be massive change. The whole industry is realizing this, but we don’t know what’s going to work yet,” he says.
Finland’s Kim Mykola, who worked at Noma for four years, adds that fine dining, like some other elite pursuits such as diamond mining and trading, ballet and others, often has an inherent element of abuse. “Everything luxury is built on someone’s back – someone has to pay,” he says.
Creativity at a high price
Chef Redzepi’s headaches have intensified following media reports and criticism from online activists about Noma’s treatment of foreign workers and the restaurant’s reliance on unpaid interns. Thus, since October Redzepi began paying the interns, which, however, increased the restaurant’s expenses by about $50,000 a month.