Three months at Redzepi’s

Matteo Aloe illustrates his 90 days at Noma. Discovering a true earth-based cuisine

Matteo Aloe, born in 1986, is chef and manager, to

Matteo Aloe, born in 1986, is chef and manager, together with his brother Salvatoreof Berberè and AlceNero-Berberè in Bologna and the surroundings. The recent internship at Noma in Copenhagen allowed him to acquire an extraordinary experience and to dedicate himself to the discovery of new flavours and new approaches to food culture

January, February, March. From the middle of the winter to early spring. My experience at René Redzepi's Noma ended in the same days in which life left the winter lethargy and was reborn in the Danish countryside. In January, I was struck by a kitchen in which even the rubbish bin has an inviting smell. There were many, many fermentations, such as in the case of the fermented black garlic, that make you travel, in your mind, back to a thousand years ago, imagining Viking food. The same Vikings that used to walk over the moss, in the Swedish forests, which today, at Noma, is server fried, together with powdered porcini and creme fraiche. The more time I spent in the kitchen, the more I touched the ingredients, and the more I understood that the food served at Noma is more than a territorial cuisine, it is an earth-based cuisine. Especially in the winter, when dishes are focused on underground and submerged life: turnips, celery roots, potatoes, ants, seaweeds, leeks.

At work! Our Matteo accepts every challenge: including peeling potatoes (photo by minty_pjdk)

At work! Our Matteo accepts every challenge: including peeling potatoes (photo by minty_pjdk)

In February, chef René comes back from his break and a wave of energy hits the whole restaurant. For instance, during a meeting, when he shows us what looks like a tank with a little water inside, he asks us: “isn’t it exciting?”. Indeed, it is, because “what you see is the sap extracted today. The roots are once again drawing the water from the earth, if we go on like this, I think in ten days’ time we’ll see the first sprouts. A new season is coming”. He was so energetic. And only in March, on the last days of my internship, I learnt why: the life that during the winter goes on underground, in spring explodes all of a sudden and bestows new colours, scents and flavours. Totally unusual for us, they are elegant and precious as the flowers of wild cherries, far away from Viking aromas.

This is what happened during these three months at Noma: I fell in love with ingredients. I did not learn to know them, to use a thousand techniques to cook them and subject them to the forced tortures of new technologies. Perhaps it was thanks to the filtered light, the music of Happy Mondays in the background, the beams on the kitchen’s ceiling, the snow on the canal, outside the window, the conversations with colleagues from all over the world, but it happened. The most beautiful experience was foraging wild flowers in the countryside, picking them up from the ground, bringing them to the kitchen, prepare them and serve them in the dining room a few hours later.

The Danish countryside conquered Matteo Aloe’s heart

The Danish countryside conquered Matteo Aloe’s heart

The relation with the earth is very close. Leo, one of the chefs, is in charge of supplier-relations. He visits everyone, constantly: 15 days do not go by between one visit and the other. In this way he can get their feedback, forward it to the kitchen, and at the same time he can share the chef’s request, or plan the seeding for the next season. Thanks to this relationship, the kitchen at Noma goes beyond the borders of the walls inside the North Atlantic House and continues, in space and time, across Scandinavia.

This is what I’ve learnt: it’s really beautiful to wear a pair of wellingtons, get dirty with mud, feeling the rain falling over you, and go to the countryside to pick the fruits of the earth. If catering schools would change quickly, and give students the opportunity to learn how to grow plants, in ten years’ time we could have the strongest generation of Italian chefs ever. And the healthiest agriculture on earth.

See also
Learning from the North


Chefs' life stories

Men who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view