It's been quite a year for chef René Redzepi's Noma. From the Noma Japan pop-up to the original restaurant's impending shutter and renovation, the past few months have been full of change and possible renewal for Redzepi's highly lauded Copenhagen restaurant. Today comes word that Noma's chef de cuisine Daniel Giusti will leave the restaurant at the end of the year.
A Canadian who has been working at the restaurant since last year, Ben Ing, will take Giusti's place. Ing's resume includes a stint at New York City's Eleven Madison Park, but most of the chef's training happened in Canada's capital city. After culinary school, he worked his way up at several top restaurants in Ottawa before landing an internship with Redzepi in February of 2014. His rise to the chef de cuisine position has been swift.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Giusti, a native of Washington, DC, plans to return to the states to work on America's school lunch problem. The chef who once headed up the kitchens at DC's 1789 is going into business for himself. His new company is called Brigaid, clearly a play on the term used to describe a kitchen staff setup, a brigade.
Giusti describes his new venture as "a chef driven organization" that will use a chef's skill set and tendency towards efficiency "to improve the quality of school meals and help educate kids about what they are eating." It's a big change for the chef who once fed diners $800 dinners. He says, "I am very excited to begin this journey and I hope to work with some of you along the way!"
As the Post points out, Giusti's new venture sounds more than a little bit ambitious. Keeping in mind that the USDA budgets just $3.07 for each public school meal, the fine dining chef's new project actually sounds a bit crazy. But Giusti says working at Noma taught him to take chances. "This place has shown me you can do anything... for me to be [at Noma] now and to have the job that I have now," he says, "I have made myself believe that anything is possible."
Sam Kass, former White House Nutrition Director noted the challenges Giusti will face, but also said that the status quo in the public school lunch system — long term contracts, budget restraints, picky eaters, over-involved parents, and slow-to-change nutritional standards — is part of the problem. Kass, now a senior food analyst at NBC News said, "Someone coming from the outside with new ideas is good."
Giusti's Brigaid system will spend its money building new school cafeteria kitchens or remodeling old ones. Say good-bye to the lunch lady; the Brigaid system will train and install a professional chef in each new kitchen full-time. The Post also notes that the venture is not affiliated with first lady Michelle Obama's Chefs Move to Schools program, which puts a chef in each school kitchen once a week or once a month.
If nothing else, Giusti is using the moderate notoriety he gained by working at one of the best restaurants in the world for good. While at Noma, he learned how to hire and support a large team of similarly creative and talented people. It's a skill set he'll bring with him to Brigaid. While the new project is a risky move, the chef has the backing of some important people in the industry, and his tenacity and youth are assets that might just be enough to get kids to eat their vegetables.
Two super talented chefs. As we say farewell to Dan we also welcome Ben into his new role as our head chef. pic.twitter.com/qJedkNdTrw— restaurant noma (@nomacph) December 22, 2015
Meanwhile, Noma soldiers on. The restaurant as we now know it will close at the end of next year. At a site nearby, a new Noma will rise, complete with urban farm and Ben Ing heading the kitchen. And this month, christening the Noma that was is the new documentary about René Redzepi. Eater's film critic Joshua David Stein gave Noma: My Perfect Storm 4 out of 5 stars.