A renowned chef reveals his appetite for risk—and edible insects.
In 2013, Copenhagen’s dining sensation, Noma, hit a serious snag: an outbreak of norovirus that threatened the restaurant’s future and the reputation of its world-famous chef, René Redzepi. When Esquire food and drinks editor Gordinier (X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking, 2008, etc.) met Redzepi in 2014, the chef felt burned out, looking for new inspirations and, as he wrote in his journal, “scared of losing the precious worldwide attention we’d stumbled into.” Eager to reinvent himself and invigorate his cooking, he decided to travel in search of new ideas, and he invited the author to come along to share in and write about the journey. At his own crossroads—depressed over his failing marriage—Gordinier saw Redzepi’s invitation as a gift, a recognition of his talent, and a chance to join the “fierce, focused crew” that made up the chef’s entourage. The search for flavor took the group to Sydney, arctic Norway, Copenhagen, and Mexico, where Redzepi planned a pop-up, Noma Mexico, to investigate “the complexity of Mexican cuisine,” flavors that long had haunted him. The author reports the chef’s ecstatic response to the lush abundance of the markets: tripe, blood sausage, bags of chicken hearts, wild cherries, prickly pears, avocado leaves that smelled like licorice, wondrous tropical fruits, and “galaxies of chiles, oceans of nuts, pyramids of palm sugar, lakes of tamarind paste.” “To watch Redzepi in a Mexican marketplace,” Gordinier writes, “…is like getting a contact high from somebody else’s peyote trip.” Redzepi’s “kinetic fixation on propelling himself forward” characterizes the author’s portrait of him: restless, “allergic to inertia,” easily bored. Whenever Redzepi discovered an unfamiliar ingredient, technique, or custom, he seemed energized by “an electric current.” Kelp, seawort, ant eggs, and grasshoppers are just a few of the ingredients he tried out, which for Redzepi “exemplify all meanings of the word ‘wild’ ”—“flavors and textures of the untamed.”
A vivid chronicle of a rare culinary adventure.