Nathan, Max, and I recently had the pleasure of meeting chef René Redzepi from Noma while he was in Seattle promoting his wonderful new book, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine. I really admire what René set out to accomplish at Noma and am impressed by his well-deserved success. Renés sincerity and passion are apparent when you talk to him. And, while he is perfectly fluent in English, his modesty and restraint constantly reminds me that he is very much a Dane.
I recognized this personality trait because Id seen it before. There was a period in my life when I lived in Sweden, and I spent enough time in Denmark with Danish friends to recognize that, in both countries, there is a profound sense of social responsibility that influences nearly every aspect of day to day life. Scandinavians like to cooperate: with each other, with society, and with nature. Indeed, the word Legoperhaps the most famous Danish exportoriginates from the words leg and godt, which together roughly translate as play well. Those lucky enough to have dined at Noma have experienced firsthand how closely Renés cooking cooperates with nature and expresses a profound sense of place. And, having spoken with friends who have spent time cooking with René at Noma, its clear that the importance of cooperation and openness goes beyond the food and cooking.
Speaking of food, we didnt go hungry on our night with René. Chef William Belickis hosted the reception for chef Redzepi and his cookbook at Mistral Kitchen. William prepared an outstanding menu inspired by the cooking of Noma, adding a few great dishes that were distinctly his ownthe tandoori-charred lamb loin with a sauce prepared from lettuce was not only delicious, but also reminded me that lettuce is often given short shrift as a versatile ingredient. The meal also reminded Nathan, Max, and me how fortunate we are to live in Seattle. While we wont be cooking with musk ox or wild sea buckthorn anytime soon, the Cascades and Puget Sound offer an abundance of ingredients that can only be found here and can imbue our cooking with a sense of place that is uniquely Pacific Northwest.