When Rene Redzepi opened an unknown restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen in 2003, former Gambian farmer Ali Sonko, joined him at the sink as the dishwasher.
This week, after 14 years as the much-lauded “heart and soul” of the Danish restaurant declared the best in the world four times, Sonko, now 62, was made a partner in the business.
Noma’s Australian restaurant manager, James Spreadbury, has also been offered a slice of the action after 8 years of leading the front of house, along with service director Lau Richter in what Redzepi called “one of the happiest moments of my time at Noma”.
“As we close the doors to the old noma, we also push towards the next rendition. We are almost positive we will open the doors to our new space at the end of this year,” Redezepi said in a Facebook post.
“But, most importantly, we are here to tell you that noma in its new edition will have a handful of new partners.
“It gives me incredible joy to let the world know that our restaurant managers Lau and James, and our dishwasher, Ali, have become partners in Noma. This is only the beginning…”
The chef plans to “surprise several more of our staff with a piece of the walls that they have chosen to work so hard within” he said, as the original waterfront site closed ahead of a move to a hippie commune on the edges of the capital at the end of 2017.
Sonko is held in such high esteem by the Noma team that when the restaurant was first named No. 1 in the World’s 50 Best in 2010, and he was unable to join them in London due to visa issues, they all appeared on stage wearing t-shirts bearing his face. When Noma was named world’s best three years later, Sonko delivered the acceptance speech on behalf of Redzepi and the team.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards are being held in Melbourne, Australia, in April this year.
Between now and the opening of the new Noma, Redezepi will relocate the restaurant to Mexico for several weeks in April and May.
Last year he moved Noma to Barangaroo in Sydney in a collaboration with Tourism Australia.
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