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Wine Club Newsletter - April 2023

Updated: May 11

The article below addresses the decline of Ultra-Fine Dining establishments around the world. It seems difficult to conceive how a restaurant that charges a person $400-1,000 each for a meal cannot survive. This, on top of not paying their staff either at all or with a meager wage.

You have heard many people say that being in the restaurant business is tough.

Well, it has been especially challenging in the last few years. We have had some eye-opening issues: a global pandemic in COVID, resultant multiple lockdowns, inflation, threat of a recession, a diminishing workforce that command higher wages, an affecting war, and supply chain issues.

And as you know, our rent doubled here making our existing footprint not sustainable. It took months, but we were able to make the necessary adjustments to our space, without costing us too much time and money.

We are grateful to be here serving you, and thank you so much for being a part of our passion and dreams in the culinary arts..

Gary Parker

Noma and the Decline of Fine Dining(?)

World’s best restaurant no longer ‘sustainable’ as gastronomy industry faces reckoning

The world’s best restaurant is to close its doors at the end of next year after its star chef and co-owner said it was too hard to make ends meet.

The three-Michelin-starred Noma, which opened in Copenhagen in 2003, “helped to define a genre of ultra-high-end, locally foraged, and culinarily groundbreaking cuisine”, said Condé Nast Traveler, serving up dishes such as Moldy Egg Tart and Reindeer Heart Tartare.

It has been named among the best restaurants in the world several times, taking the number-one spot in the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2021. The shock of Noma’s impending closure has prompted debate over the long-term future of fine dining.

Despite a seemingly endless stream of eager customers booking months in advance and willing to pay more than £600 per person for a tasting menu, Noma chef René Redzepi said it was becoming too hard to make ends meet because of the “unsustainable” economics at the top end of gastronomy.

“We have to rethink the industry,” the 45-year-old told The New York Times. “This is simply too hard, and we must work in a different way…It’s unsustainable. Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work.”

“Across the internet, critics, celebrity chefs, and fans have expressed a mixture of sadness and reverence, along with a healthy dose of skepticism,” said Condé Nast Traveler. News of Noma’s closure comes just months after the restaurant began paying its interns, known as stagiaires or stages in the industry, following an exposé by the Financial Times which revealed that around 30 people were working unpaid shifts of up to 16-hour days.

According to The New York Times the practice of paying interns has added $50,000 in monthly operating expenses to the restaurant’s budget, essentially making it financially unviable.

In place of a restaurant serving customers, Noma will instead “become a full-time food laboratory, developing new dishes and products for its e-commerce operation, Noma Projects, and the dining rooms will be open only for periodic pop-ups”, said the paper, with Redzepi’s role becoming “something closer to chief creative officer than chef”.

‘Seedy underbelly of first-class eating’

The shock announcement is “certain to make tables at Noma even more sought after”, said The Telegraph, “but it has also drawn attention to the seedy underbelly of first-class eating, which is often built on unpaid or cheap labor”.

“Behind the decorative verbiage there is an awkward reality”, said The Times: “the business model behind parts of the luxury dining industry is hard to sustain”.

“Noma is not the first to buckle under financial pressure,” added the paper. El Bulli in Catalonia, the former holder of “the world’s best restaurant” title, folded in 2011. In 2018 two-Michelin starred Restaurant André in Singapore followed suit and then last month Manresa, among the highest-rated in Silicon Valley, also closed, with its proprietor David Kinch saying the entire trade was at a crossroads and staff could no longer be subjected to the “back-breaking” work that had become the norm.

“None of this is to say there won’t be room for fine dining in the future – but it will have to be newly realized if it hopes to succeed,” said the food website. “And to reassess the model, giants like Noma and Alinea first must fall so that the industry can start from scratch, building something sustainable in their wake.”



Gary Parker, Owner

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