Last Saturday, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my inspirations, René Redzepi. In a talk held by the Cookbook Store at the Art Gallery of Ontario, René Redzepi opened up and gave us a glimpse of the inner workings of his creative mind.
In quite a bold move, Redzepi decided to publish his journal that spans almost a year. The journal is an emotionally packed reflection on the life of the head chef at NOMA on a day to day basis. Redzepi says that shortly after his restaurant was crowned the world’s best restaurant, he felt more restricted. “An 85 to 90 hour work week? Who would want to do that if you aren’t enjoying it?”, he asks. The journal was a way to reflect on his relationship with his restaurant and to the process of creating in general. Redzepi claims the results were massively influential in how he makes decisions regarding his restaurant today.
All of this self exploration from committing to the journal for a year put Redzepi back on track creatively. Below is a moment a friend of mine managed to capture during the segment from the talk in which Redzepi describes the many hours he and his team put into figuring out how to make goat brains taste delicious. After this, the famous ants at NOMA did not seem so exotic.
As you can probably tell by now, Redzepi is truly unafraid when it comes to pushing the boundaries. Constantly questioning conventions, the NOMA head chef is always developing his understanding of our relationship with food. Perhaps my favourite part of the day was Redzepi’s recounting of the story behind his decision to put ants on his menu. Redzepi says that it was Alex Atala, the chef/owner of D.O.M who planted the idea of eating insects in his mind and it was only after a while of deliberation did Rezepi finally decide to take the plunge and introduce ants to the menu. In an excited state, Redzepi decided to call up Atala and inform him that he had joined his exclusive club of chefs who have ants on their menu. According to Redzepi, Atala’s reaction was “REALLY?!, I don’t have ants on my menu!”.
The brilliant food aside, Redzepi’s A work in progress has more universal messages about life than I had initially expected. As someone who studied economics, I would describe A work in progress as a man really getting to understand himself. As economists everywhere know, without knowing your preferences, making yourself the happiest you can be is a shot in the dark. In the midst of studying economics years ago, it became clear that discovering my preferences (what most call “finding themselves”) was massively important to my hopes of making myself as happy as possible. I think that I had partially forgotten this in recent months however, hearing Redzepi speak about the importance of understanding what makes you happy or sad reminded me in an emphatic way.
Maybe I’ll start a journal.