Reese Inkpen, winner of one of the prestigious Rotary Club of Hall Chef’s Apprentice Awards in 2016, wanted to drop in and thank the club for his life changing award; work experience an Noma Restaraunt in Copenhagen. Noma is a Two Hat restaurant that was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 and is currently ranked No 5.

Paul Bennets CIT Canberra

Paul Bennets, Culinary Arts Teacher, CIT Canberra

Unfortunately, while on his first overseas trip, Reese landed a job at a fabulous restaurant in London and so, asked his Culinary Arts Teacher from Canberra Institute of Technology, Paul Bennetts, to present the following feedback on his experience in Denmark.

Thank You For This Incredible Experience

After what seemed like an eternity in the air, my plane finally touched down in Denmark. I was met by a cold breeze of -2C Autumn morning.

Having no sense of direction and an inability to read a Danish map, I found myself on a Hussain Torv bus route which took me into Nørrebro… luckily, right next to my AirBnB. I was told the best and easiest way to get around was by bike, and ended up hiring one for my stay where I spent my first six hours getting lost in awe of the beautiful city of Copenhagen.

The first night ended for me dining at Restaurant Noma’s sister restaurant, 108, where I got my introduction to Danish ingredients and the whole idea of naturality and sustainably focused food. The very next morning I would start my new restaurant and cooking experience through my four week stay.

The very refreshing 20 minute bike ride to the restaurant at 6am every morning, proved to me that I don’t need several coffees to survive in the morning. As soon as I got to Noma, I got a quick introduction to Luke, the sous-chef, who’s role is to look after the whole upstairs prep kitchen where the majority of the other staigiers would be. After a quick tour of the kitchen, I was handed a jacket and an apron and told to meet him back in the prep kitchen.

noma restaurant

Noma restaurant – photo Wikipedia

My first week was spent on production. The team comprised of over 20 unpaid staff as well as Luke and his commis chef. This week tested character, speed and the most important… patience. Take it from me, a 16 hour workday goes by very slowly when all you’re doing is picking herbs and peeling nuts (photo above).

However, without all of these intricate jobs, Noma would never be able to do and serve what they do. The production team is the backbone of the kitchen. Along with these jobs, we spent time picking the weeds and dirt from moss, crafting toothpicks, peeling walnuts, rolling radish cones, balling apples and easily the most memorable and time consuming – plucking ducks.

The iconic duck plucking tent would consist of 10-12 staigiers crowded in a tent that smelt like death, hauled over a bench picking away at all the feathers. 2 staigiers would be outside torching the ducks, drying out the skin and eliminating all of the stubborn feathers that wouldn’t budge. It would then go through the process again of 1 more staigier scanning over the lightly torched duck and picking anything else out with tweezers. After this, the ducks would be gutted, cured and hung in a fridge to dry out over the course of a week.

Plucking ducks at Noma

Plucking ducks at Noma

By the time I knew it, it was already heading into the second week. My first day of the week catching up on sleep, washing and cooking for myself. I had explored some more of Copenhagen – going into the industrial area of Christhavn and the main shopping areas.

The second week I was still on the production team, as well as having experience in the downstairs kitchens prepping and working on a service shift – helping plate and run food. My weekend then consisted of visiting more of tourist sights as well as heading various food markets and stalls.

The third week, I was put onto foraging. This meant I would go out with another staigier picking various herbs, flowers, leaves, berries and ants which Noma was using in the menu at the time. We would leave everyday for the rest of the week at 9AM geared in our heavy winter jackets, gloves and scarves. This was one of the highlights of my trip, as I got to see more of Copenhagen and further learn about wild ingredients. I treated myself to a few restaurants on my weekend – AMASS, Studio, Giest, Bæst and the bakery close to my hotel, Mirabelle.

For my last week, I was put on foraging again. Most staigiers were at Noma for a three month internship, but I only spent one month there which didn’t allow me to go onto all of the sections.

Some of the other things Noma have in their internship program are the BBQ section, fermentation study, research, helping in the test kitchen and preparing staff meals. Two interns would be put in charge of cooking staff meals for the whole Noma family – which amounted to cooking for nearly 80 people, twice a day.

The last week I finished off with ‘Saturday night projects’, which is when some of the Noma chefs and interns create a dish based on something they have been inspired by and then present it in front of the rest of the team. I also ate at more restaurants on my days off; Manfreds and Relæ among others.

This opportunity that the Rotary Club of Hall has given me was like no other. Not only did I have an opportunity to work in one of the world’s best restaurants and to understand their ideas about technique, food and ingredients; but I also had the chance to travel by myself, eat at great restaurants and meet so many new people.

My career has been enhanced by this experience and words can not explain my gratitude for the opportunity I have been given.