Noma Chef René Redzepi on Apple TV+ Show ‘Omnivore’ and Climate Change 5

René Redzepi has built Copenhagen restaurant Noma — ranked five times as the No. 1 restaurant in the world by the World’s 50 Best list — into a culinary institution, and now he has his sights set on changing how the world thinks about food.

The famed chef has co-created the new Apple TV+ docuseries Omnivore, which follows individual ingredients that have shaped the world; salt, rice, banana, pig, chili, coffee, tuna and corn are each explored in the show’s eight episodes. Redzepi narrates but makes only brief onscreen appearances as the series dives into the history of these ingredients, as well as how they are currently being affected by climate change and how conservation can save the food supply.

Redzepi has had the idea for the series for more than a decade, and finally had time during the pandemic to put it into motion. He teamed with Matt Goulding, who executive produced Anthony Bourdain: Explore Parts Unknown, and points to both Bourdain and Planet Earth as inspirations. More than anything, though, the chef wanted to tell these stories of both food and climate without “being like this angry schoolteacher.”

“Food is one of the easiest ways to actually create or be part of a change, through how you eat and through the choices you make when you’re at the grocery store,” Redzepi says, but also notes, “If I’m to be told one more time what I can and can’t do with this ultra sense of urgency that if you don’t change your entire life over tomorrow, then you are doing something wrong — we wanted to let the audience choose themselves.”

That approach includes, for example, educating viewers during the “Rice” episode about the monsoons in Asia that fuel rice production to feed half the world’s population. “I feel like if you’re shouting in people’s faces and telling them, perhaps it doesn’t enter in the same way as if you open up the conversation and tell them in a beautiful way that ‘Here’s a monsoon, and we need to take care of the monsoon; the monsoon is important to us,’” the chef explains. “And so that’s how we choose to do it, and I really hope it will work. I think it will; I think the show will make people think deeper about the choices they make and the food they eat and just perhaps appreciate more food in general.”

Redzepi’s focus on conservation began when he opened Noma 21 years ago in the dead of winter and had very few natural ingredients to cook with. The fine-dining mecca has since become known for its sustainability, as Redzepi notes that year by year his team started to better understand seasonality and the rhythms of the environment. “And with each year you fall in love with it, you have a relationship to the environment and the place you grow,” he said. “And that’s when it started for me, this care. And then, of course, if you’re just 1 percent sentient being, you know that something needs to happen in our world, and we should all be doing what we can to be better.”

Looking at the restaurant industry as a whole, Redzepi says it has an important role to play in the climate change fight, as restaurateurs “typically sit in between the outward-facing world and then agriculture.”

“People in the food world, in the restaurant world, they actually have a huge opportunity to just be the megaphone for these flavors, these ways of eating, and can help push things to the better. And I also have to say that ultimately, changing people’s minds on what to eat will only happen through deliciousness — that is the change factor, in my opinion,” he continues. “So unless we’re all about to die from hunger, we’ll eat anything — but we aren’t, and we won’t be for a while, at least in L.A. and Denmark, in our parts of the world — what will convince people is if things taste amazing, like truly amazing.”

For example, he says, if spinach can be prepared in a delicious way where “I don’t feel like I’m missing steak, then I’ll eat spinach four nights a week and once in a while I’ll eat a steak, as opposed to perhaps eating meat-based dinners all the time. And restaurants, they’re, of course, at the center point of that, because their superpowers are flavor and putting people together.”

And though the show is called Omnivore, Redzepi acknowledges that “eating more greens is the future, there is no way around it, but how then to eat meat and what type of meat, that also becomes important to understand. But there’s no doubt that eating more plants is a part of a better world.”

The series — which the chef always wanted to focus on the food versus the host, noting “it’s not the René Redzepi show” — will drop on Apple TV+ on July 19, just a few months before Noma will close its doors at the end of the year. The timing of one chapter ending while the other begins “is totally by chance” Redzepi says, admitting he had “no idea how Hollywood works” and when production began on the show four years ago, he assumed it would be out within six months. But he also says Noma is simply “slowing down to build again.”

“Our intention is that we will shift from being a restaurant to being an organization that will use the last 21 years of network, of the talent that we have, of the expertise, to actually reach a broader audience with our expertise and initiate new types of projects and collaborations that can have a bigger impact,” he explains. “And then once in a while, we will open our restaurant because we need to test all the innovations we’re working on with an audience. And that will be the rhythm of Noma going forward, at least how we plan it.”

As for his blossoming TV career, Redzepi jokes, “I hope that every single foodie on earth will watch Omnivore so that we can continue this” for future seasons, and learn a few things along the way too.

“Food is never just food. That is one of our key ground philosophies when we explore everything here,” he says, wanting audiences to see that “food is the most important thing on earth, and let people think about that. It might not be to them because they might be interested in other things that are to them most important, but changing food is changing the world and is also changing health.”

This story first appeared in the June 2024 Sustainability issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to see the rest of the issue.

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