Last updated: April 28, 2012 1:02 am

FT Foodies: René Redzepi

Noma’s chef talks to Natalie Whittle about childhood memories of cooking over the fire and starting his career at 15
René Redzepi©AFP

Born in Copenhagen to Danish and Macedonian parents, René Redzepi is chef and co-owner of Noma, Copenhagen, and a champion of Nordic ingredients. This summer he is hosting a Noma pop-up at Claridge’s, London.

Do you have your own Proust’s Madeleine – a food that instantly brings back memories?

Not so much a flavour, more a feeling. For instance, when I smell a fireplace (with real wood), I’m instantly taken back to my childhood days in Macedonia; there, everything was cooked over fire.

What were your school dinners like?

Simple fare – a few slices of tomato with oil. A bit of bread, pâté, maybe a cold cut of sorts. Milk or water.

What was a food or drink treat as a child?

The best thing I knew of as a child was when the typical daily stew of white beans was spiced with sujuk (spicy sausage). This happened rarely as sujuk was expensive.

Was there another career you might have followed?

Probably a gardener or farmer, like the rest of the Redzepis.

What was your most hated chore as a trainee?

I started my cooking “career” aged 15, almost 20 years ago. At the time it was quite a shock suddenly working 75 to 80 hours a week, without time to play football or other sports.

Is the customer always right?

Of course not – but 99.9 per cent of the time, yes.

How would your sous-chefs describe you?

Pain in the arse.

What, if any, are the weaknesses left in your cooking?

We work too much. I need to find ways to give the staff more free time.

What’s your guiltiest food pleasure?

I’m a bit of a glutton – I eat too much of all that is good to eat.

What do you like about British food?

We have made our own Marmite at the restaurant using yeast from a micro-brewery; the next thing is making crumpets.

Who would work in your dream kitchen?

I have a dream team already …

‘A Taste of Noma at Claridge’s’ runs from July 28-August 6; five courses for £195. To register, contact www.claridges.co.uk/atasteofnoma; tickets go on sale on Wednesday May 9. www.noma.dk.

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