The World’s Best Restaurant Is Closing

(Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr)
(Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr)

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If you’re craving reindeer brain custard or ants-covered shrimp, we’ve got bad news for you.

Noma, a three-Michelin star restaurant in Copenhagen that has claimed the title of “World’s Best Restaurant” five times, announced that it will close its doors in 2024, pivoting to an e-commerce model and the occasional pop-up event. Founder and head chef René Redzepi told The New York Times it is time for high-end restaurateurs to “completely rethink the industry” citing the intensive and oft-times abusive work culture abounding in professional kitchens.

Eat Your Heart Out

As of July 2022, diners at Noma could expect to spend somewhere between $420 and $700 on a meal, depending on whether they would like wine. The restaurant has also been subject to unflattering media coverage of how it treats its staff, who kept diners’ plates sparsely topped up with locally foraged ingredients – someone had to find all those ants. Having previously relied on a crop of up to 30 unpaid interns (out of 100 total staff, per the Times) Noma began paying its interns in October, which added around $50,000 to its monthly costs.

Redzepi denied that the added strain of paying interns had prompted his decision to shut the restaurant. Still, he did say the modern fine-dining business is unsustainable both “financially and emotionally.” In that sense, Noma may have a little something in common with a restaurant known not for buttermilk and scoby but for Quarter Pounders with cheese. Like Redzepi, the boss at McDonald’s also believes his food empire needs fixing:

  • McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski told employees on Friday to expect corporate job cuts and reorganization as the brand focuses on opening even more restaurant locations. He insisted this wasn’t because the company is cutting costs, but rather re-tooling its current structure, which he described as “outdated and self-limiting.”
  • Much like Noma’s sudden intern expenditures, McDonald’s and its fast-food brethren could soon face a reckoning on the cost of labor in the US as 26 states are hiking their minimum wage — plus a court case in California could set the state’s minimum wage for fast-food workers as high as $22 per hour.

Gour-mate: As Redzepi bids his interns farewell, a new fine-dining champion has emerged in the form of 34-year-old Eric Finkelstein, who broke the Guinness World Record for most Michelin-starred restaurants visited within 24 hours, as chronicled in a Washington Post feature. Finkelstein used a finely-tuned spreadsheet plus a string of witnesses to visit 18 New York eateries, where he spent a total of $494 before tax and tips. That averages out to $27.40 per stop — no dollar menu to be sure but it’s still a rounding error at Noma.