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Over the past decade or so, the demand and expectations of high-end restaurants around the world have gone up, with more people interested in enjoying quality or unusual culinary experiences. This might seem a bit rich coming after the United Nations declared in 2009 that global food production needs to increase by 70 percent by 2050 if the world is to sustain itself.

With that in mind, “Noma My Perfect Storm,” a documentary that profiles chef Rene Redzepi and explores ingredients seen as exotic in the West — such as insects, tree bark and animal blood — does leave you wondering how the astronomical bills at such restaurants can be justified when there are so many nations unable to sustain their populations.

To be fair, Noma, Redzepi’s Copenhagen restaurant, which has been voted the world’s best four times in the space of five years (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014), is noted for using seasonal, locally sourced and foraged Danish ingredients, meaning that it at least encourages the consumer to think outside the box regarding food sources, and it uses ingredients that involve less energy consumption. All that’s a feat in itself considering Denmark is enveloped in wintry weather six months of the year.

Noma My Perfect Storm (Noma Sekai o Kaeru Ryori)
Rating
Run Time 100 mins
Language English, Danish, Spanish, Albanian, French
Opens APRIL 29

And what materials he finds; Redzepi’s creations explode with color and are highly imaginative. His dishes seem less like food and more like a series of art installations. He strives to surprise, and like an artist he wants the whole world to come around to his vision of dining — whether its through a swirl of cream topped with ants, or fermented blood (one of Redzepi’s favorite sauces) surrounding a single wildflower. No doubt he’s pushing the envelope when it comes to our perception of food and what it means to fine-dine, and it’s no wonder many restaurateurs agree that Redzepi is the most influential chef of his time.

Filmmaker Pierre Deschamps, however, though enamored by Redzepi seems less taken with the chef’s creations. There’s always a distance between the dish and the camera as the director constantly takes several steps back from Noma’s dishes, and by doing so, severs the sensual connection between the diners and what they are about to put in their mouth. There’s a curiously clinical element to it all, as if Deschamps is an art appraiser, trying to determine whether the works are genuine or merely clever forgeries. Surely passion or an appetite for such luxury should enter the picture somewhere, but it’s largely absent.

In 2013, an outbreak of norovirus resulted in a number of guests at Noma falling ill, and that year the restaurant lost its No. 1. spot. Redzepi acts like the incident doesn’t affect him, but it’s soon clear that it has, and he’s determined to claw his way up again whatever it takes.

Deschamps lingers on Redzepi’s past and roots. The chef who settles for nothing less than “pure” Nordic cuisine has a Muslim father who immigrated from Macedonia, and he refers to this when commenting sardonically on being ostracized in school and the difficulties he faced in carving out a place for himself in an often rigidly conservative Danish society. There’s a inferiority complex burdening him, but this is also one of his greatest assets. He will never be satisfied with his work or allow himself a moment of complacency. That’s what tinges Noma with its uniqueness: its uncompromising quest for excellence or victory.

That was then. Noma has since slid to No. 3 on the best restaurants list, but then being at the top has also become less important to the chef. After hosting pop-up restaurants in Tokyo and Sydney, Redzepi decided to close Noma and re-open it later in a new location as an urban farm-to-table restaurant that only uses home-grown ingredients. Redzepi is about to redefine the concept of fine dining again, and how he does it will likely be the subject of another documentary.

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