Upon receiving the grant, I chose a restaurant that meant something to me. It was Noma 2.0. I have been watching this restaurant since I "officially" started my career 5 years ago. When I think of high standard and innovation, this restaurant immediately comes to my mind. There was some personal factors that played a part, as well. My great-great grandparents were from Denmark. This ultimately sealed my decision.
The experience was something I never truly expected. We started at the beginning of the game/hunt season. It was a chilly fall day when I arrived to see these beautiful greenhouses. We were ushered in by a lovely woman named Bente, who was sort of the interns counselor during our time at Noma. We then met the head/sous chefs that gave us a tour. The next day, we started major prep.The way they organize the kitchen, the people, and the prep is incredible. They have very detailed/scaled recipes, systems in place to make things easy to execute and a standard for cleanliness and professionalism. I was placed in the service kitchen right away. It was such a thrilling experience. Every day I needed to finish one time consuming task at a time but the same things every day for the first 3 weeks. A few of my tasks included cutting down pine branches to make plates, building herb bouquets, peeling juniper skins, cutting black currant shoots in half, and sorting through the different sizes of pine shoots. If I was able to cut time down, I was able to learn a new task. It was such a fun challenge to push myself in this way. Everything is under constant surveillance from the leaders. It all creates an electric energy.
After prep, we would go into service. The tables would start entering and dishes would start flowing. Once, I felt comfortable with a station, I would get pulled to learn a new station to plate. I was able to be apart of 6 plating aspects and it was a thrilling experience. Every time a table would enter the restaurant, we would go to the front of the service kitchen to greet them. We would just stop and do that immediately. This is an example of the service that Noma provides. They think about every detail when it comes to their guests. From, the beginning where they test dishes over and over in the test kitchen a month before the season, to the way the guest is greeted or given their food. I was fortunate enough to have my parents visit me while I was there. They were given ultimate service. I was expected to run as many dishes as possible to them and give them a tour. It meant so much to us. This is one of my biggest takeaways. There is always an extra mile that you can go to achieve high-quality hospitality.
Beyond service there are a few other areas I worked in. I helped with production tasks for a few days. Things like cleaning moss, peeling hip berries, and picking herbs. No task is unimportant. Everything is needed to make the beautiful dishes. However, my favorite task was in the duck processing room. I was able to cut open duck heads for the brain that was served during the meal. I loved it. I did many other tasks related to the duck such as cleaning the legs and skin, making the legs into skewers, waxing the heads to create a vessel for the brain, and waxing the beaks for duck heart tartar.
The time spent there seems unreal. I met so many kind, respectable chefs. Everyone knows they have serious work to do but will still smile and say good morning. That was a huge takeaway for me. Even if it is a standard they have, I believe it impacts the restaurant in a huge way. I believe this experience has made me more aware, patient, organized, and efficient. That is more than I could have hoped for. I am very grateful for this entire experience.