Dining

René Redzepi Names Noma's Longtime Dishwasher a Co-Owner of the Restaurant

Ali Sonko has been with the team for 13 years
How a Dishwasher Became a Partner at One of the World's Greatest Restaurants
Photo: Laura L.P./HdG Photography

For the past 13 years, Ali Sonko, a father of 12, has washed dishes at one of the world's most acclaimed restaurants, Noma in Copenhagen. But starting this weekend, there are no dishes to wash, at least for a few months.

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Chef and owner René Redzepi closed the restaurant after dinner on Friday night to make way for Noma 2.0. On Saturday, he threw a party for the staff and friends of the restaurant, where he announced that the next generation of Noma will be co-owned by some of the restaurant's staff including Sonko, Berlingske reports. During his speech, Redzepi explained:

Ali is the heart and soul of Noma. I don't think people appreciate what it means to have a person like Ali in the house. He is all smiles, no matter how his twelve children fare. And, by the way, my own father was also named Ali, and he too worked as a dishwasher when he came to Denmark.

Sonko has long been an integral member of the Noma team. When Redzepi and a squad of chefs headed to London to receive the award for Best Restaurant in the world in 2010, Sonko was slated to come but couldn't make it due to visa issues. The staff, Redzepi included, wore shirts with Sonko's photo on them.

Sonko was one of three team members to be named partner in the upcoming Noma. The other two are the restaurant's service director, Lau Richter, and manager James Spreadbury.

When the new restaurant opens at the end of the year (if all goes to plan), there will be 10 cottages, an urban farm and a larger space on a former naval island in the harbor. Meanwhile, the team will be popping up in Tulum.

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