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Noma Apologizes for Threatening Stagiers With a Global Restaurant Blacklist

Photo: pazca / Flickr

An anonymous former Noma intern has leaked the world famous restaurant's stagier introductory letter to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. (You can read it in English here.) For the most part, it's pretty straightforward: respect the neighborhood, bring your knives and maybe a notebook to the restaurant, don't use the guest bathroom, no cellphones in the kitchen. And then there's the part where they threaten to put stagiers on an international blacklist should they quit before the three-month minimum is up, or blog about their experience staging at the restaurant.

For their part, Noma has denied the existence of an actual blacklist and apologized for the letter. Noma GM Peter Kreiner tells Eater, "The perception that this was a carefully conceived and enforced policy is incorrect, and we most certainly do not have a black list."

According to the letter, "only extraordinary circumstances will warrant the early termination of a stage." Therefor, should you bail before your three months are up, the letter says you would be placed on a blacklist shared with "others restaurants around the world with whom we share a good relationship" [sic]:

For stages, we accept people for a minimum of three months and, as previously stated, all stages must start on a Tuesday and end on a Saturday (although you may be asked to come on the Monday before your first day for a tour of the kitchen and formal introduction. Only extraordinary circumstances will warrant the early termination of a stage. Therefore, if you are worried that you will not be able to afford to stage very long, please ask for only the minimum length of stay here (three months). Ending your stage early without consent or simply not showing up will result in your name being added to a blacklist, which will be shared with others restaurants around the world with whom we share a good relationship. Please note, Copenhagen is expensive and even though we supply you with meals on working days, it is still up to you to support yourself whilst here.

Similarly, publicizing your experience at the restaurant will get you added to the list:

Blogging, publishing, posting. We do not allow any blogging or publishing (online or otherwise) of your activities at noma, if you fail to comply with this rule, you will be expelled immediately and your name will be added to a blacklist, which will be shared with others restaurants around the world with whom we share a good relationship.

Calling the letter "a clear mistake," Noma GM Peter Kreiner told DR Nyheder that the threat made it into the agreement because the language "was inspired by letters sent by other restaurants and that the blacklisting threat was copied from one of these letters." (Translation from Danish by The Copenhagen Post.) Kreiner tells Eater:

First off, the document wasn't a formal contract. It was drawn up by one member of staff, a former cook who took over the intern program (because he injured his back) and drew up this document as best he could. No one caught the wording, unfortunately, and that was a mistake.

The perception that this was a carefully conceived and enforced policy is incorrect, and we most certainly do not have a black list. We never have, never will. Our intentions have always been to foster a positive, happy, and enriching work environment for our staff. At the end of the day, we're a restaurant with forty seats, and things like this can fall through the cracks.

I usually can keep track of these things, but in this case, I did not catch it, and I'm sorry for the undue pressure this has created for my employee and our staff.

There is also now a letter on the restaurant's website signed by "Everyone at Noma" that calls the stagier letter a "serious oversight." It notes that blogging/social media bans apply to photos and information about guests, but that staff is allowed to share information about their personal experience.

Dear guests,

Several articles published in the Danish press have reported that Noma threatens to blacklist interns if they do not comply with our policies. We would first and foremost like to state that we have never had such a black list, and never will.

We did, however, include this wording in a document distributed to interns. It was a serious oversight.

A few years back, we began to receive an overwhelming amount of interest from people wanting to be a part of Noma and learn from our kitchen. In order to handle this new situation, we decided to develop an intern program for the restaurant. Since no similar programs exist in Denmark, we drew inspiration from the intern systems of other restaurants around the world as we created it, and copied several aspects of these plans.

In the section that is supposed to describe the level of commitment we seek from interns, so that we may maintain a stable, reliable kitchen system at the restaurant, we unfortunately borrowed the term "black list." This was an error which we have corrected.

With regards to our blogging and social media policy for members of staff, we do have in-house rules against the dissemination of information and photos relating to our guests. Of course, our staff can share photos and writings of their experiences at Noma (they have and continue to do so freely), but this cannot extend to information or images about our diners. One of the utmost concerns of our operation is maintaining the privacy of those that come through our doors.

We consider our staff family, and we are devastated to see that, through a mistake, our intentions and philosophy could be misconstrued. We are extremely happy about and proud of the many interns who have come to Noma. Long-lasting friendships and even marriages have resulted from the relationships forged within our restaurant.

All the best,

Everyone at Noma

Noma reps tell Eater that stagiers were not required to sign the letter, either as an agreement or even to prove they had read it. The restaurant says they have drawn up a new Stagier introductory letter that removes mention of a blacklist. Meanwhile, it's unclear which restaurant the blacklist concept was borrowed from, and whether that restaurant actually enforces it.

· Noma apologises for blacklisting threat [CPHPost via @ElizabethonFood]
· Stagier Introductory Note [JP]
· Noma truer kokke til tavshed [DR Nyheder]
· All Rene Redzepi Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Noma Coverage on Eater [-E-]


Strandgade 93, 1401 København, Denmark