Noma: My Perfect Storm – Review (Sheffield Doc/Fest)

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If you’re a fan of good food, then you should seek out this documentary, as it showcases what it takes to rise to the very top. Long shots hovering over mouthwatering dishes do at times feel like an advert for an upmarket supermarket, but they are garnished with a wonderful backstory. Nordic cuisine is a thing, apparently. However, even the patriotically inclined participants in this documentary will admit that it is a recent phenomenon on the global stage.

When head chef and co-owner Rene Redzepi first opened Noma in 2003, he had little idea how far he would be taking his Copenhagen based restaurant. Using the best ingredients in the region, foraged and farmed through a network of local contacts, Rene’s Noma went on to win Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

You might ask yourself ‘what happened in 2013?’, well that is a story in itself.

We’ve seen documentaries like this before. El Bulli, released in 2010, took a similar look at the Spanish restaurant that was previously crowned the best in the world. Jiro Dreams of Sushi followed soon after, and documented the efforts of a sushi master at the age of 85. These films tried to make stars of the chefs, but Noma allows us to be introduced to Rene and see him at work, which in turn lets us take in the story that is happening around him to better effect. The food is still as tantalising, and pretentious, as ever. There is plenty of flavoured foam and smoke served on a plate to make you seriously question what is it all about.

Redzepi, the son of a Muslim immigrant from Macedonia, certainly understands the limitations with the medium in capturing his food, and even takes an appropriate side swipe at those of us who insist on snapping our plates before consuming them:

“It doesn’t matter how many Instagram pictures you’re swallowing of the meal here, or how many articles you read, getting the vibe of the team working together, you have to be there, you have to put the food in your mouth and taste it. For that reason you can’t have a movie acting as a dining experience.”

That basically sums up the limitation of the film in a nutshell. You also get a sense of where the constant voiceover can get a little too earnest at times.

It is glorious to look at, and like every review of a review we can take it from others that it is as good as presented, but all we have to go on are the accolades presented to us. Thankfully, although not for those effected by it, there is the 2013 incident referenced earlier to make the film feel very dramatic. 63 costumers were struck down by the norovirus when a chef working in the kitchen contaminated the food. The restaurant faced permanent closure and its reputation, built over a decade of hard work, was in tatters.

The story of recovery from this incident is where the film showcases the real emotions involved and helps us get a better understanding of what it takes to make it in the industry. You feel that a scripted film of the rise and fall and rise again of Noma just wouldn’t work as well, and that’s the best compliment you can pay to a documentary.

Noma: My Perfect Storm is on general release now and will be screened as part of the Sheffield Doc/Fest on the 14th of June.

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About Cassam Looch

Cassam Looch has been watching films ever since his first trip to the cinema to catch Care Bears: The Movie and writing about them after a traumatic incident involving Moonwalker. If he's not hassling celebrities on the red carpet, he'll usually be found in the darkened screening rooms of Soho.

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