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RIP the Noma Science Bunker: 2014-2018

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We barely knew thee, we barely understood thee

Noma Science Bunker, Copehagen.
Noma Science Bunker, Copehagen.
Martin Kaufmann
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

The Noma Science Bunker died in Copenhagen this week, doing what it loved: being a trailer owned by Noma. During its nondenominational departure ceremony, a crane hoisted the former home of world-class restaurant Noma’s research arm into the Danish sky. The alluring scent of elderflower kombucha wafted through the air and gathered mourners heard the sound of a single fermentation bubble bursting in the distance.

The Noma Science Bunker, born in 2014 and named for its Wi-Fi network, was a collection of temperature-controlled trailers that together comprised the main research facility for a team of culinary scientists, first led by former MAD/Noma research manager Arielle Johnson and former Noma R&D head Lars Williams.

Within these trailers, the research team created things like black current leaf kombucha, miso-style fermentations made from peas and egg yolks, and vinegar from fennel tops. “It’s at some midway point between a test kitchen and a ‘lab’ lab,” Johnson told Eater shortly after the Bunker was born. “Hopefully [the Bunker is] more like a kitchen. But we’re not actually producing dishes, we’re producing knowledge.”

The Bunker’s fate was placed into question after chef-icon René Redzepi announced in 2015 that he would close and relocate Noma; the Bunker spent its final months like the rest of the culinary world did, wondering whether New Noma would be as good as Old Noma.

The Noma Science Bunker is survived by its adult son, the lab at Noma 2.0 and its research crew including Jason White and David Zilber; its godfather, the ghost of Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli; as well as spiritual cousins, the Fäviken root cellar and the Momofuku lab. It will be interred somewhere — in maybe some sort of trailer depot — until someone repurchases it and turns it into Copenhagen’s hottest natural wine bar.

• Inside Noma’s Science Bunker [E]
All Noma Coverage [E]