René Redzepi considers David Attenborough one of his heroes.

“I used to love his shows and dream away watching them. And I always loved this care [and] attention, this dedication to the natural world: to a plant, to a leaf, to a beetle. And, you know, we just thought, ‘Why can’t we do that with food? Bring that energy into it?’” Redzepi tells Broadsheet over Zoom.

He’s promoting his new Apple TV+ series Omnivore, an eight-episode show, focusing on one ingredient per episode. The chef behind Noma – the three-Michelin-starred Copenhagen restaurant that has been named the world’s best restaurant by the World’s 50 Best a record-breaking five times – has nailed the Attenborough approach.

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Chilli, tuna, salt, banana, pig, rice, coffee and corn are all given starring roles in episodic deep dives that largely centre around small-scale farming and agricultural practices. The series is narrated by Redzepi, who makes a few minor appearances throughout the show.

“When René called up with the idea to do a TV show, I think the first question I asked him was, ‘Do you want to be on camera? Are we following you around the world?’” says executive producer Matt Goulding. “And the answer was a very quick and very decisive ‘No, absolutely not. This is a bigger story, this isn’t my story’.”

Goulding has authored 21 books, was an executive producer of Anthony Bourdain: Explore Parts Unknown and in 2012 he co-founded chef-favourite publication Roads & Kingdoms.

“If [Omnivore] inspires you to do something different, to cook that evening or to shop a better chicken or to ask where your apples are from at the supermarket, that would be fantastic,” adds Redzepi.

The series launches globally on July 19, months before Noma closes ahead of its transformation into Noma 3.0, which the team says will turn the operation into “a pioneering test kitchen dedicated to the work of food innovation and the development of new flavours, one that will share the fruits of our efforts more widely than ever before”.

We took five minutes with Redzepi and Goulding to learn more about Omnivore and the chef’s plans for Noma 3.0.

Hi René! How do you feel the show builds on the work that you’ve already done through Noma?

Redzepi: It’s sort of expanding on that work and bringing it to a bigger audience that we’ve never actually had before. I really just want food to be better and people to appreciate it. I want people to realise that food is the most important thing on Earth.

For many years, of course, we were a restaurant and we were number one or whatever. But there was always a desire to do something more, to be part of something bigger at Noma. To initiate things to try to work for something bigger. I was always much more in love with food than just accolades.

I was struck by the chilli episode when some of the paprika farmers were talking about struggling to keep the next generation in the industry. How do we keep people in the food industry, from the farm to fine dining?

Redzepi: I will say very briefly I think it comes down to value. You know, how is it that we value food? Is it the most important thing in our lives? Do we value it as Europeans value football? As Aussies value footy? Is food that important or is it just cheap calories?

I think the world of food for some reason is valued at an all-time low, and it comes down to that ultimately. And we best see that in all the food we throw away. You don’t throw things away that you value. If you truly value things, you wouldn’t throw it away. I mean, I don’t know anyone [who would] throw away their wedding ring unless something dramatic happened.

That’s what we’re trying to do with the show, to actually lift the value of things.

Goulding: I think the younger generation has to be able to see an opportunity to improve the way that we grow food. It can’t just be, “I want to inherit the exact same system that my parents did, and the ones before them”. And I think if they can see a chance to kind of merge the generational knowledge and the wisdom with the innovation and technology and the tools that we have at our fingertips today to really do exciting new things in the space, that could be a possible path forward for people who might not otherwise find farming to be ambitious enough for them or modern enough for them or feel connected enough to that type of hard labour because it is that. We’re at that critical crossroads right now.

Redzepi: But in a world where everything gets more and more optimised and streamlined, these sort of small crafts people, whether they are growing carrots, or bananas or even making plateware, will have an increasingly hard time. Unless we start valuing them more, we will lose something.

The show focuses a lot on small farmers, but sadly, a lot of our food doesn’t come from these kinds of farms. How do we make this kind of small-scale farming accessible to more people?

Goulding: I mean, that’s the biggest question we’re trying to tussle with, especially if you look at the corn episode. There’s a reason it’s the last episode. It’s trying to tie together a lot of the big ideas of the series. You have two separate families after the same goal: to grow corn the best way they know how. And both of them share so much in common. The one thing they don’t share is a system. The system is very different in Iowa than it is in southern Mexico. You can look at the milpas in southern Mexico and say, “Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that romantic? But it can’t feed the world”. And there’s some truth to that. But when you really dive into the reality of the milpas, and you look at the studies and what it’s capable of producing, they’re more efficient than monocultures. They grow more calories per hectare than single mono crops can do. So how do you take that awareness and expand it?

The thing that René and I usually will come back to is the first step, having a conversation where the people who represent generational traditional farming are talking to people, or at least to the other side of the spectrum, where there is innovation, there is machinery, there is some advancement. And on the opposite side, people on the large-scale industrial farming side are paying more attention and giving more credence to these traditions that have been preserved over the course of millennia.

I think when you look at that sweet spot in the middle, you get something like regenerative farming. Ultimately regenerative farming is just polycultural farming, but it is emerging around the world right now at larger scales. As you see some of these individual farms, and what they’re capable of producing, you start to think, “Is there possibly another way?” And I think that there is and it’s certainly worth pursuing.

René, I’m curious to know how what you’ve learned through the show is going to come into play in this next chapter of Noma.

Redzepi: Actually, quite a few things. We’ll focus more on using our team, our network, all the innovations that we have, and everything we’ve got going for us to work on bigger projects.

One of them that seems to have been crystallised after Omnivore is a project on the future of staples of foods. It’s just a working title right now. But as we’ve learned through Omnivore, many of the food crops that are pivotal in the world, like rice and corn and so on, are under tremendous pressure. For some it’s climate change through the monsoons that are very erratic. For others it’s because we’ve simply out-farmed the land – there are no more nutrients and we can’t grow more stuff.

Let’s say we have 50 per cent less rice [in the future], can we eat mushrooms [instead]? Where is seaweed going to be in our diets 20 to 30 years from now? How do we make it delicious so people accept it? What about legumes? What about bugs? You know, is it utopian to think in 30 to 40 years that we actually eat bugs on a regular basis?

My personal opinion is that – and this is where Noma comes in, and that’s our superpower – I say “Yes”. If it’s delicious enough then people will accept anything.

Omnivore is on Apple TV+ from July 19.