Sometimes René Redzepi emails you asking, "Where are you in the world, you epicurean," and you end up spending the next three years making a movie together.
Or at least that's how it unfolded for Pierre Deschamps as he was making his first feature-length documentary, Noma My Perfect Storm, which hits theaters and the internet this Friday.
"I said, 'I would soon be in your office for a new film to document,'" the French-born, London-based director reminisces over the phone.
They met nearly eight years ago, when a mutual friend introduced them, and Deschamps later shot an event Redzepi was hosting at Noma. Fascinated by the young chef even after he moved from Copenhagen to the Caribbean, Deschamps delved into his books, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine and René Redzepi: A Work in Progress, to get a sense of the man behind the then-up-and-coming restaurant.
"I didn't have the money to make the film. I only had the idea," Deschamps says. "So I went to Noma and started observing what was going on, trying to find my place and watching how they work. Once we got to shooting, norovirus happened."
When the infection broke out in the restaurant in 2013, Noma lost its top slot in World's 50 Best, and that third Michelin star never came. (Hence "perfect storm" from the film's title.) The dreamy, noirish documentary zeroes in on this difficult year for the restaurant. It's not all about the pleasantries of foraging for leafy Nordic herbs, diving for local sea urchins, the militant precision of the restaurant's line cooks and the Champagne-soaked victories.
Deschamps tails the chef from tension-filled dish-development sessions with his tight-knit team to casual dinners at home with his children. You get to know the man through the people who keep Noma chugging along, from former chefs who worked under Redzepi to quirky farmers and artisans who provide the materials. More interviews with farmers will be included on the DVD version of the film, because, as Deschamps says, they "provide the DNA of Noma."
"When I look at René's story, it was sort of the ugly duckling story," he says. "There is rejection, and I wanted people to understand that chain of events—the ugly duckling that he was and how he has become the most beautiful swan of gastronomy."
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