Ever wonder what life would be like if you ran the finest restaurant in the world? It's been a little overwhelming for Rene Redzepi, the chef whose Noma in Copenhagen topped the list of the 2010 S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants chosen by UK magazine The Restaurant earlier this year. For him, things got crazy, fast.
“We get 100,000 requests a month for bookings,” he tells food blog eater.com . “We have 12 tables. We seat 40 guests a service. And we're open five days a week. The day after the event we had 280,000 unique hits on our website from 90 different countries. It crashed.”
It must be tempting for the 34-year-old Redzepi to cash in on his newfound celebrity, but he's staying focused on his restaurant instead. His lone concession to fame is a new book — Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine; Phaidon, $49.95 — in which he shares the recipes and philosophy that won him this coveted award.
And believe us, this guy's got a philosophy. He's into local, seasonal and even wild ingredients exclusively, relying on three professional foragers to find them. This trio can only source from Nordic countries, and strict adherence to this standard adds a high degree of difficulty to producing food that ranks as the best in the world. The long Scandinavian winters offer a further challenge on the ingredients front, although a network of 70 or so small-scale purveyors helps Redzepi keep it going.
This is how the S. Pellegrino judges sum up what goes on at Noma. “Situated on Copenhagen's dockside in a stylishly converted 18th century shipping warehouse where most dishes are served by the chefs themselves, Noma leads the trend in ‘cold climate cuisine.’ Famous for taking truly seasonal and local ingredients, many of which are unheard of outside of the Nordic region, and creating dishes such as radishes in edible soil that acutely demonstrate nature on a plate, the restaurant has quickly established itself as a place of pilgrimage.”
We feel comfortable in saying that readers will find the 90 recipes in this 365-page book to be mind-benders, and they'll be tough to reproduce in a U.S.-based kitchen, too. But if you've been wondering what would come next after the molecular gastronomy craze of the last few years, this is your book.
Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food For The Camera
By Delores Custer Wiley, $75
Tempted to be one of those operators who take their own food shots for their websites and print ads? We suggest you buy a copy of this exhaustively detailed (398 pages) book and learn how to do it right before you tackle such a project. It's not a photography primer, but rather a manual about how to make the food you're photographing look good to the camera. Custer knows her stuff and can communicate it to readers, who will be surprised to learn how much thought and effort go into getting food photography right. $75 is a lot, but it's a bargain price to pay for this much specialized information. Bonus: If you want to switch careers and get into food styling, this book is all you'll need.
Ethan Stowell's New Italian Kitchen
By Ethan Stowell and Leslie Miller
10 Speed Press; $35.
Here we have a collection of rustic Italian dishes that have been produced with or augmented by the ingredients and spirit of the Pacific Northwest. That combination has taken Stowell far — the Seattle chef is up to four restaurants and has garnered national honors — and would be right at home almost anywhere in the country. If you want to produce food that's contemporary and sophisticated without being fussy, Stowell is your guy. Worth a long look.