This is the Noma Science Bunker. It occupies a small corner of a construction site behind Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that holds the number 1 spot on the World's 50 Best list. At the most basic level, the Bunker is a collection of shipping containers that house temperature controlled rooms and an office.
But that's not all. The Bunker is a research hub, a laboratory, a fermentation facility, and an incubator, says scientist and MAD/Noma research manager Arielle Johnson.
"It's at some midway point between a test kitchen and a 'lab' lab," she says. "Hopefully [the Bunker is] more like a kitchen. But we're not actually producing dishes, we're producing knowledge. In that sense it's like a lab, but it's a different discipline than a chem lab would have, it's very much informed by the test kitchen and the service kitchen."
It's called the Noma Science Bunker because that's the name Johnson gave the WiFi network, and "it stuck."
Precise Climate Control
The space itself is more than just a collection of shipping containers. Three formerly refrigerated containers have been outfitted with temperature and humidity controls to allow for precise climate engineering. There are seven rooms in total, which are home to equipment like a centrifuge and soon a rotovap. A fourth container serves as the office, originally designed to perform the same function for a construction site.
Here are just a few examples of projects currently underway at the Bunker: black current leaf kombucha; elderflower kombucha; garum-like fermentations (garum is a fermented fish sauce) made from non-traditional ingredients like beef trim, squid guts and trim, and grasshoppers; and miso-style fermentations made from things like peas, egg yolks, and pumpkins; cured turbot roe; and elderflower, pumpkin, fennel top, and cherry vinegars. And there's plenty more happening too.
Finding New Flavors
The relationship between Noma's test kitchen, led by Noma's head of R&D and Johnson's partner-in-crime at the Bunker Lars Williams, and the service kitchen, which serves the dining room, is a fluid one. Johnson says the Bunker produces fermentations for the dining room (and also spins oils for service in their centrifuge). But where the test kitchen works on creating and perfecting dishes for service, the Bunker is dedicated to "finding new flavors and new processes."
If the definitions seems a bit shaky, it's because the Bunker has only been operating a few weeks. While the idea for a research space like the Bunker has existed for years, Johnson says that about two months ago the idea really took shape and the team has been building out the bunker for the past eight weeks.
The Bunker has been operating for a total of seven weeks, and Johnson expects its role to shift as more time goes by. "After [MAD] we'll really get our hands dirty with figuring out a lot of stuff," Johnson says, referring to whether she'll bring on more chefs and/or scientists to join in her and Williams' work. "I'm not sure what the next six months will look like," she explains. Yet.
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