Bourdain’s Field Notes
COPENHAGEN, October 2013—I do not, by temperament or inclination, gravitate towards Scandinavian countries. I am intimidated and made uncomfortable by safe, clean, orderly places where everything works and people seem creepily content.
I’m a guy who tends to fall in love with hot, messy, barely functional places, where fiery arguments are common, and one is pleasantly surprised if one’s luggage arrives in good order, if at all.
So, it comes as something of a surprise that what we came back with after a week shooting in Copenhagen—in what is said to be the “happiest country on earth”—is perhaps the finest, most technically accomplished, best looking hour of television we’ve ever made. It’s just fucking … gorgeous.
It’s a show centered around one restaurant, Noma, and one chef, René Redzepi. Both have been written about many times.
But no one, I think, has ever shown you what we’re going to show you.
Noma is said to be “the best restaurant in the world” and they are famous for, among other things, sourcing almost all their ingredients from the forests, fields, farms, beaches and marshes of the area immediately around Copenhagen. They have pioneered the notion of “foraging” and taken it to an extreme that would be damn easy to mock if the results weren’t so genuinely brilliant and delicious.
You’d think wandering around scrounging for weeds and moss would be boring—but get ready.
Noma is a very, very creative space. And René Redzepi encourages creativity. So, we felt we had better live up to our subject.
We would provide no “coverage” for our editor back in New York, no extra footage of entrances and exits, establishing shots, alternate takes. Subjects would fall and wander out of frame. We would force post-production to be great because there would be simply no alternative. We would tell our entire story over the course of one meal, at one restaurant, cutting back and forth through time and space.
Producer Tom Vitale was heroically suicidal in the risks he took with this episode.
Cinematographers Zach Zamboni and Alan Jacobsen did amazing work. The show looks like nothing we’ve ever done before. And editor Hunter Gross took what we shot and made magic.
Needless to say, it was quite a challenge.
But what came out of that editing room is, I think, a masterpiece.