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Flavours of Noma in a bottle

The Noma Projects emerged as a seed sown during the COVID era, and has since flourished into an increasingly captivating and flavoursome collection.

Flavour is a term ever-present in the kitchen at the three-star restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. Within the test kitchen and fermentation lab, a devoted team continuously works on developing and considering how Noma's taste evolves across different seasons, and how these flavours are preserved for use throughout the rest of the year. For some time, chef owner Renée Redzepi had been pondering over how the restaurant could extend its reach to a broader audience. This has been pursued through various avenues such as multiple cookbooks and acclaimed pop-ups in Japan, Australia, and Mexico.

Amidst COVID and lockdowns, Renée Redzepi introduced yet another concept, namely Noma Projects, a webshop offering enticing products for home cooks. Leading the project are Annika de Las Heras, previously project manager for Noma's international pop-up and general manager, and Thomas Frebel, former R&D at Noma who for a period ran Inua in Japan. However, translating ingredients used in the restaurant into a product in a bottle for global sale proved easier said than done. Many uncertainties arose along the way. How do you scale up production of something previously crafted for a smaller number of guests? How can they be transported without damage? What would pique the interest of a home cook? How can we best demonstrate the versatility of the ingredient? Yes, the questions were plentiful.

Annika de Las Heras explains that she and Thomas complement each other well. While Thomas champions innovation and taste certainty, she represents the perspective of the home cook. "Thomas may find an ingredient easy to work with, while I may not grasp how it should be used at all," she says. She further explains:

And we constantly have to consider how we approach seasonality, what we should select from our catalogue of ingredients used in the restaurant, what is exceptionally delicious, and what works well at home beyond the restaurant. The first product launched in February 2022 was smoked mushroom garum, a carefully selected item. For us, it marked an important starting point because garum features heavily at Noma. We wanted Noma Projects to embody an extension of Noma in product form. And if we aimed to showcase what Noma tastes like, we wanted to commence with something that has been a mainstay on our menu for thousands of servings. 

The smoked mushroom garum is concocted from organic mushrooms blended with salt and koji rice, fermented for several months before undergoing cold-smoking and bottling. To provide insight into how Noma Projects products could be utilised, a website was established for both shopping and simple recipes. The smoked mushroom garum quickly sold out, affirming its success, which prompted the release of a smaller, limited batch of wild rose vinegar and forager’s vinaigrette. "We anticipated the arrival of summer and sought to capture its essence. We dispatched as many foragers from our team as possible to gather wild rose petals, and that determined the volume we could produce. Upon release, they sold out within 30 minutes," explains Annika de Las Heras.

Today, over ten products have been introduced, with the latest being The Ocean bundle, directly inspired by the current Noma menu and comprising three items: Elderflower Peaso, Nordic Shoyu, and Ocean à la Crème. Additionally, Noma has established a membership club named Taste Buds. "We aim to welcome people to join us on a journey that Thomas and I have been steering in recent years. Here, we share products that may not make it into our regular assortment — perhaps they're too costly or their production process is too complex," states Annika de Las Heras.

An illustration of how Taste Buds can influence is evident in the production of Corn Yuzu Hot Sauce, where two different versions were distributed to members for feedback. The outcome was a fiery blend of roasted habanero, sweet corn, and Japanese citrus. Restaurant Noma persists in its endeavour to reach a global audience, with plans for a pop-up at Ace Hotel in Kyoto this fall, running from October 8th to December 18th.

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Tove Oskarsson Henckel
Tove Oskarsson Henckel
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