The top restaurant where an immigrant dishwasher can become partner
2017. február 28. írta: világevő

The top restaurant where an immigrant dishwasher can become partner

 Noma is generally a jolly place to work at, but it is a dishwasher from Gambia who's the happiest of all the team members. He has been working there since the beginning, and now he has just gained a new title: partner.  

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During the closing party of Noma, René Redzepi, best chef of the world (according to me), announced that three team members would continue as partners and co-owners when Noma 2 opens at its new location in Copenhagen. Two high-ranking managers (Lau Richter and James Spreadbury) will add this title to their job description - which is not unusual. However, the third team member to become co-owner is Ali Sonko!

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250 dinner guests, the firsts to try Noma's new location (myself included), heard René Redzepi's heartfelt and funny speech of half an hour, in which he announced that the 62-year old dishwasher would become a co-owner. René of course also highlighted the background of this development: "Ali is the heart and soul of Noma. I don't think people even realise how much he means to us. He is always happy and smiling, irrespective of what might be going on with one of his children - of which he has 12. By the way, my father's name is Ali as well, and he also started as a dishwasher, when we first arrived to Denmark" [Redzepi is an immigrant himself, of Albanian-Macedonian origin.] 

When Noma was chosen the best restaurant of the world in 2010, the team wanted to bring Ali along to the awards ceremony, as an expression of their appreciation. Ali didn't get his visa from the UK authorities, which caused the team to participate at the ceremony in T-shirts showing Ali. [In 2010, Noma actually managed to beat Ferran Adriá's El Bulli. This was not a small feat, as El Bulli had been a champion for 4 consecutive years beforehand.] Two years later, the team was making the same trip, on the same occasion, but they prepared the trip much better, and Ali could eventually deliver their thank you speech in person, in front of all the guests and the international press...

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I wasn't present for the 2010 awards ceremony, credit for this photo goes to Dubai Guzzler. 

Ali has continued to be a key figure of the restaurant, even though his position of dishwasher is not one of the high-prestige ones in any restaurant. This all might very well change now because his story is an inspiration to everyone, who starts as a dishwasher. Of course, it is not by accident that this happens in Denmark, and even less surprising that it happens in Redzepi's restaurant.

I will provide you with a report on Noma's fabulous closing party, but for now, it is enough to know that they are already preparing the pop-up restaurant in Mexico, in parallel to having started work on Noma 2. It will be in a protected, long building made of concrete. So far, the place has been basically an unofficial homeless shelter and the canvas of graffiti artists. They are adding new units to it, and they want Noma 2 to amaze the whole wide world. 

I didn't even know that he would be a co-owner, come the evening:

This is my video about the Noma party. Of course, featuring Ali!

Omnivore in Paris coming up in the near future, in the meantime, then the restaurant of another Nordic star, Daniel Berlin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

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