René Redzepi seems to be everywhere at the moment. There is, of course, his internationally feted restaurant, Noma, transplanted from Copenhagen’s Christianshavn neighbourhood to Barangaroo in Sydney for a sold-out 10-week season. Then came the announcement that MAD, Redzepi’s no-holds-barred food think-tank, is coming to the Sydney Opera House in April.
Following the launch of Noma My Perfect Storm, the Danish chef now has a foothold in Australian cinemas, too. Filmed over three years by French filmmaker Pierre Deschamps, the documentary is a frank look at life in dining’s big league, from the highs of Noma’s World’s Best Restaurant three-peat to the annus horribilis of 2013 when Noma lost its best restaurant crown and was struck by a food poisoning incident. While the filmmaker admits this kind of drama makes for good viewing, he believes it also reveals plenty about Redzepi’s considerable mettle.
“It’s part of the risk when you decide to go and shoot something – you never know what’s going to happen,” says Deschamps. “For the story, I was lucky those things happened, but if you listen to René, those negative points are what help you to grow, move forward and find new victories.”
Despite all the column inches dedicated to Redzepi over the years, Noma My Perfect Storm still manages to raise new topics of discussion. Redzepi the devoted father (“So fucking what? I’m going to have my three kids, that’s my three [Michelin] stars”). Redzepi the victim of racism (the son of a Muslim-Macedonian immigrant, his reflections on bigotry are both unexpected and timely). Redzepi the pain in the arse (“He irritated me a bit,” admits Danish farmer, Søren Wiuff, one of Redzepi’s longest allies and one of the many Noma collaborators interviewed for the documentary).
It’s not all talking heads and introspective monologues, though. Restaurant voyeurs, I’m sure, will be thrilled to hear the film is spiked with gratuitous, slow-motion food shots galore, yet for all the smoked quail eggs and kohlrabi soda cameos, Deschamps was conscious of portraying the restaurant’s day-to-day honestly. Chefs were never asked to stage shoots. Food discussions are candid (sometimes uncomfortably so). The language isn’t always PG. Shots in the bustling Noma kitchen might have been limited to the one nook, but Deschamps – himself a qualified chef – manages to put viewers in the thick of the action during service.
“I was there when other people were filming and it was just, ‘cut, can you do this? Cut, okay let’s redo this’,” says Deschamps. “It was unbearable. You lose that natural feeling completely and it becomes almost like you’re shooting fiction. As soon as you put a camera on someone’s face in the middle of service, the person isn’t natural and stresses a lot. I didn’t want to create this.” Other than long-serving Noma personnel, it’s hard to think of anyone that’s had the sort of access to Redzepi Deschamps has and the filmmaker makes it count. While some of the narratives in the documentary feel like they’ve ended early, Noma My Perfect Storm is essential viewing, not just for those with an interest in food, but anyone with an interest in the creative process.
“Rene Redzepi is constantly reinventing himself,” says Deschamps.
“He invents and proposes a lot of things. He’s always trying to bring something new to the plate.”
Noma My Perfect Storm is now showing at Randwick Ritz and Palace Norton St Cinema.