Trying to position an internationally celebrated, always booked restaurant as an underdog is a ridiculous undertaking.
In director and cinematographer Pierre Deschamps’s Noma: My Perfect Storm, the conflict appears to be whether the restaurant, which since 2003 has served Nordic cuisine made of exclusively Nordic ingredients, will retake its top spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2014, a position Noma held from 2009 to 2012. It fell to second in 2013, something chef René Redzepi feels keenly even as he disavows the arbitrary nature of restaurant rankings.
In between, Redzepi worries about the effects of a February 2013 outbreak of norovirus that sickened 63 Noma diners, whether anyone else understands the nuances of using lemon thyme instead of regular, and whether or not he’ll get a third Michelin star — not that ratings matter to him. Deschamps has a hard time dramatizing Redzepi’s year awaiting further accolades; he solemnly films plates of food without any explanation of what they are or why they’re worth documenting, as though their association with Noma is enough.
The closest Deschamps comes to creating real stakes is some unexplained, ongoing tension between Redzepi and his chief of research and development, Lars Williams: For about ten minutes, the documentary seems like it could be titled What’s Lars’s Problem? or Will Lars Get Fired? He doesn’t; Noma retakes the top spot in 2014, and business carries on unchanged. Deschamps never ventures below the surface of Redzepi’s wildly successful experiment, and while the pictures are pretty, no one judges food on appearance alone.
Noma: My Perfect Storm
Directed by Pierre Deschamps
Opens December 18, Landmark Sunshine
Available on demand