From a humble background, the son of a poor immigrant, Danish masterchef Rene Redzepi rose to establish the best restaurant on the planet and become one of the world’s most influential chefs. Founded by Rene and Marc J. Blazer in 2003, the two-star Michelin restaurant NOMA had its origins in an old warehouse on the waterfront in central Copenhagen. It is a linguistic blend of the words NOrdisk (Nordic) and MAd (food), and has become responsible for the reinvention and refinement of new Nordic cuisine. It’s so popular and extremely difficult to get a booking, even the great Rick Stein couldn’t get a reservation when he was doing his TV doco on Copenhagen culinary delights.
“For me cooking is something that is completely transparent and without pretence that is honest and generous and has something true and original about it,” Rene said. In 2012 TIME magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and he appeared on its cover, citing the Dane as the ‘local produce hero’.
For Rene cooking is all about a sense of time and place. NOMA is not in London, Paris or New York, it’s in Copenhagen in Southern Scandinavia where most ingredients are from Sealand and Southern Sweden and follows the seasons. Initially NOMA was not a success as the food industry and critics ridiculed the unconvential dishes and ingredients.
Eventually that all changed. It become the decades greatest restaurant, winning the World’s Best Restaurant Award three years in a fow from 2010-2012 and again in 2014. NOMA served it ‘last supper’ on the original site in September 2016 and will reopen and reinvent itself as an urban farm on the out-skirts of the city later this year. In the meantime, Rene and his full team have gone NOMAdic, travelling the globe, creating pop-ups in places such as Sydney, Tokyo and Tulum Beach in Mexico, preaching the gospel of using local produce. I sent my sketch to the old address earlier this year, not realising NOMA had closed, but it must have eventually got to him, arriving back last week, signed and dedicated.
As you know, in my next life I want to be a chef. In order to prep for that I have included in my list of vices viewing TV cooking programmes and sketching a few of my favourite foodies. I couldn’t miss out one of the most influential food writers and broadcasters, Nigella Lawson.
My opportunity came last night when she was part of The Guardian Live series at London’s Emmanuel Centre, where she was interviewed and introduced her new book, SIMPLY NIGELLA. It was also an excellent opportunity to exercise my festive spirit and buy a copy of her book for my mum’s Chrissie present. I stood in line while the large throng had their copies signed and got the obligatory selfies, reaching her with only a few left in the hall. ‘Oh there’s such an eerie silence now’ she said. That was before I piped up.
As she was signing my book and we were chatting away I asked her if she could also sign my sketch. Awkward moment. She explained that it was not something she could do and the official looking person told me, ‘Books only’. But the festive spirit prevailed and Nigella very kindly said ” I’ll just pop this in the corner,” and she signed a ‘thank you’ and simply ‘Nigella’. And I’ll pop mum’s pressie in the post.
Rising star of British Theatre Jade Anouka has just finished a three week run of her solo show Chef at London’s Soho Theatre.
Sabrina Mahfouz’s gripping 50 minute poetic monologue about one woman who went from being a haute-cuisine head-chef to a convicted inmate running a prison kitchen made its London debut after a sensational season at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, winning the 2014 Fringe First Award.
“The combination of Mahfouz’s lyrical yet bruising writing and Anouka’s phenomenal performance is a winning one,” wrote The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner. Other critics have been equally full of praise, using adjectives such as “stunning”, “wonderful” and “extraordinary”.
I met the delightful Jade after her final matinée performance at the Soho on Saturday afternoon and she signed my sketch.
Whenever I can, I get my culinary kicks watching BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, either live or the ‘Best Bites’ – a selection of the best bits of the show hosted by popular TV chef James Martin. With 3.5million watching, I’m not alone, but I’m probably the only one to have my original 4B pencil sketch signed by him.
My culinary curiosity continues. This time it’s Chef from “Hell” Gordon Ramsay. His TV programmes, including Hell’s Kitchen, Hotel Hell, The F Word and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares have made him a household name. In fact, it was his shows that cemented my interest in cooking and celebrity chefs.
Gordon’s restaurants have been awarded 15 Michelin stars. His signature establishment restaurant ‘Gordon Ramsay’ has held 3 Michelin Stars since 2001.
Gordon has become famous for his use of expletives and fiery temper – a reputation built upon his goal of culinary perfection and probably influenced by previous mentors, including the equally pugnacious Marco Pierre White. But on my sketch I got the other four letter word, so I guess he liked it.
Combining two of my vices – drawing and watching cooking programmes on TV – I decided to draw a few of my favourite celebrity chefs. Rick Stein was the first. I sent this sketch to him at his flagship, The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow on the northern Cornish Coast and he sent it back quicker than you could boil a lobster.
He’s been on our TV screens for the past two decades with that happy laid-back demeanour. He also sells seafood by the seashore, and more. His empire includes The Seafood Restaurant, S Petroc’s Bistro, Rick Stein’s Café, Stein’s Fish & Chips, a cookery school, accommodation, a gift shop, a deli, a patisserie, a fishmongers and The Cornish Arms pub in nearby St Merryn… and no Rick Stein at Bannisters in Mollymook in NSW, Australia.
Rick has to be credited for single-handedly reviving the British seafood industry. Padstow is now a popular tourist destination. His impact on the local econmy has led some to call the once sleepy Cornish fishing village ‘Padstein’.