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Monday, January 30, 2023

From sizzle to fizzle: Is fine-dining unsustainable?

World NewsFrom sizzle to fizzle: Is fine-dining unsustainable?

On January 9, critically acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Noma announced that it is set to close its doors next year. Known for its sensational, attention-grabbing dishes, the fine-dining establishment has topped the World’s Best Restaurants list not once, but five times, earning its third Michelin star in 2021. A meal at a restaurant that reinvented and focused on Nordic cuisine. Components from the Scandinavian region cost 3,500 Danish kroner ( 41,754) per person, plus an additional 1,800 kroner ( 21,304) per person more for wine pairing. It’s usually booked three months in advance, and reservations are made on the sixth of every month – when around 20,000 people try to snag a table and only 42 make it.

The news of Noma’s closure, therefore, came as a shock to the culinary world. Speaking to The New York Times, co-owner and chef Rene Redzepi called the model “unsustainable” and said, “It’s very difficult. We have to do things in a different way…as employers and as human beings, this work. No. Previously, in 2015, the restaurant underwent a makeover, and opened its doors to the public in 2016.

The development comes as an alarm bell for the fine-dining model — given the high-pressure operations, overworked staff and changing consumer preferences post-pandemic. While the chefs believe the model may be here to stay, they caution that it needs to be adapted and developed.

‘Always Unsustainable’

Chef Ritu Dalmia, co-owner of Diva Restaurant, opened a fine-dining restaurant in London in 1996 that closed soon after, says, “The cost of maintaining fine dining in terms of staff is more than double. The cost of ingredients, and their sourcing is not only difficult, but most clients don’t understand it, and aren’t willing to pay for it. Even if we have a full restaurant, it’s hard to make money. Michelin star restaurants around the world also have their own cafes and bistros. Michelin acts as a show window, and they can only make money from the cafe or bistro models. Therefore, it has been an unsustainable for a long time. Business has been.”

Blame the pandemic?

Chef Atul Kochhar, a two-time Michelin star award winner, has previously dined at Noma. Kochhar, chef-partner of SAGA: Cuisines of India in Gurugram, recalls, “I remember my experience. A meal at Noma costs about £600 per person. How often do you want to spend that much? Sure. The model is going to be unsustainable after a period of time. And the pandemic has made things completely unsustainable. With the economic conditions at the moment, people’s pockets are not good, it’s being squeezed around the world.

staffing issues; Stressful environment

“Labor is not cheap in Copenhagen. Restaurant closures like this are due to staffing,” says chef Manish Mehrotra, who owns Indian Accent in New Delhi and New York. He adds, “There’s a younger generation entering the industry and for some people the kitchen or restaurant is not the preferred option. Working in a kitchen is crazy – sometimes there’s no work-life balance.” Plus, most people aren’t willing to work late, on weekends or during the holiday season – which are prime times for a restaurant business. Dedicated professionals are required.

Unsustainable? Not in Asia!

Chef Gagan Anand, who runs an eponymous restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, joined Noma in 2012. He says, “What applies to Noma doesn’t necessarily apply to restaurants in Asia…Given that Noma is closing, hardly any restaurants are closing in India. Being the first country in the world Despite this, there is a high level of inequality abroad. But here in Asia, we value our employees. I understand that there is a shortage of staff in the industry, but someone needs to rethink the strategy and philosophy of running a restaurant. Required.

A shift is needed.

The high-pressure work environment, which is characteristic of this industry, contributes significantly to making the model unsustainable. “There’s been a massive shift in mindset among top chefs, where they don’t want to continue as slaves for long periods of time. If you look at the case of Noma, or the legendary chef Heston Blumenthal, who has three Michelin stars in the UK. owns The Fat Dick, talks openly about feeling depressed during the height of his career, so all of these things come into play. I don’t want to work seven days, 15-16 hours a day, and I Definitely don’t want my kitchen brigade to work like that,” says Chef Kochhar.

So, where, next?

While Noma is shutting down its regular services, it will continue to operate as a pop-up restaurant and food lab, called Noma 3.0. This begs the question: Are pop-ups the future? “Pop-ups are already huge. They are quite successful and a bit expensive, but they give diners an opportunity to experience what a fine restaurant really has to offer,” says Mehrotra. , “Soon, every two or six months will open the kitchen, work one month and take the next day off. There are examples in the south of France and Spain. Chefs can take these models, modify them and make it their everyday life,” he says.

Fine dining restaurants that have closed their doors.

El Bulli, a three-Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant, has closed after 27 years of operation. British magazine The Restaurant named it one of the best in the world five times.

Chef David Kinch announced last year that he would be closing Menrisa, his three-Michelin-starred restaurant in California, after 20 years. “It’s backbreaking work that requires you to give your best every day, no excuses,” he said.

The Michelin-starred Peel’s restaurant at Hampton Manor in Solhill, United Kingdom, has announced it is closing its doors after 14 years, with plans to switch to a casual dining model.


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