Dishwasher to be co-owner of top restaurant Noma

Foto: Dennis Lehmann
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If Ali Sonko wasn't already the most famous dishwasher in the world, he could probably claim the title now as he has been made a partner at one of the leading restaurants in the world.

Friday last week, Noma had its last business day at the current address on the Copenhagen harbour front where it has been situated since 2003. On Saturday, head chef René Redzepi & Co. threw a party for the staff and friends of the house - some 250 people. During the party Redzepi presented the layout of the new restaurant, projected to open on December 1st if architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) can stay on schedule. The restaurant is designed as ten small, cottage-like buildings plus one bigger central which will be housed in an old mine depot on a former naval island in the harbour area.

During his 30 minutes speech Redzepi also disclosed that Noma has decided to give a part of itself away:

»It is a fantastic new project, but what would it all be worth without the employees?« he said before disclosing that the restaurant's dishwasher of the last 13 years, Gambian Ali Sonko, will be the first of several Noma partners.

»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,« said a visibly moved Redzepi.

The 62 year old Ali, who has the energy and the looks of a 30 years younger man, gained fame in 2010, when he was supposed to have joined the chefs on stage in London as Noma was named the best restaurant in the world for the first time. But in the excitement nobody paid any attention to the fact that the Gambian - although a resident in Denmark for the past 34 years - could not enter Britain without a visa. So the ten man delegation fronted by René Redzepi had to settle for a presentation on stage where they all wore T-shirts bearing Ali's portrait.

Two years later, in 2012, when Noma received the honours for the third time, the papers had been sorted and Ali Sonko was present and able to give the reception speech in front of the world press.
On Saturday, two other partners were named: Service director Lau Richter, also at Noma from the very start, and Australian James Spreadbury, manager for the past eight years.