Movie review: Noma: My Perfect Storm

By Peter Calder

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Chef Rene Redzepi in culinary doco Noma: My Perfect Storm.
Chef Rene Redzepi in culinary doco Noma: My Perfect Storm.

Films about restaurants have proliferated in recent years. In step with the food porn that has taken over prime-time television, restaurants both fabled (El Bulli) and lesser-known (Entre Les Bras) have had the documentary treatment.

Who would have heard of Jiro Ono if it weren't for the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about his three-Michelin-star sushi restaurant in Ginza?

As pieces of film-making, these are as wildly variable as their menus (the El Bulli film was a dog; Sally Rowe's A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt, which showed in festivals here, was fascinating).

This, the feature debut by a Frenchman who is presently completing a film about last year's Rugby World Cup, is neither of those.

Scene from Noma: The Perfect Storm.
Scene from Noma: The Perfect Storm.

Its subject is the Copenhagen restaurant Noma, which, under the stewardship of founder Rene Redzepi, pioneered the so-called New Nordic food, whose hallmarks are a scrupulous dedication to seasonality and what winemakers call terroir.

The restaurant, named the world's best for four of the past six years by Restaurant magazine in the UK, uses foraged and wild foods to arresting effect: (pickled eggs finished with sorrel smoke; live ants with creme fraiche).

But to the extent that Deschamps' film tells us anything about the food, it does so only in the style of a corporate video that seems close to a puff piece. "He's not cooking supper any more," says one interviewee. "He's changing the world."

Scene from Noma: The Perfect Storm.
Scene from Noma: The Perfect Storm.

It is, perhaps, unintentionally revealing about Redzepi who comes across as remarkably unlikeable. He derides as "assholes" people who come to the restaurant because it's No1, derides the title as "a stupid accolade" when he loses it in 2013 and visibly aches to get it back.

He is profane, obsessive and faintly paranoid - which is true of most great chefs - but, in displaying that, the film doesn't actually reveal much.

Any attempt to examine Redzepi's philosophy, much less interrogate the reasons for the restaurant's success (is it more than a fad or a gimmick?), is notably missing in action. In its place are pretty pictures of glistening leaves.

Noma: My Perfect Storm

Director: Pierre Deschamps
Running time: 98 mins
Rating: M (offensive language) English and Danish with subtitles
Verdict: Boosterish and only unintentionally revealing.

- TimeOut

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