On the 9th January 2023, the culinary world stopped in their tracks as the New York Times first broke the news that Noma – arguably the best restaurant in the world – would close its doors at the end of 2024.

Despite a torrent of accolades over the years including 3 Michelin Stars and charging diners $500 per person for a seasonal tasting menu; including dishes like grilled reindeer heart and local celeriac shawarma, an emerging narrative has been leaving a poor taste over the past few years.

Long unpaid hours for interns, severely strict rules and the reported harassment of employees is a mixture destined to produce a toxic work environment. That is, sadly, similar to many high-end dining restaurants in our most expensive cities and sought-after locations.

When the media is best, like your favourite book, play or podcast, is when the story challenges the fundamentals of the way we live. Focusing on those hidden narratives that we like to ignore and don’t like to engage with because it’s, well, uncomfortable.

Enter Chef Julian Slowik. The egotistical, self-obsessed and manipulative Chef who is the main antagonist of the 2022 psychological thriller The Menu – that, ironically, premiered on streaming services across the globe at the same time as the news about Noma broke.

While pretentious foodies mourned the loss of the opportunity to experience René Redzepi’s creations, the internet blew up in a frenzy at the stark similarities between Hawthorne, the restaurant in the film, and Noma.

Guests in the menu likened the staff as ‘a marching band’ until they realise the initial awe is the product of being orchestrated by the demanding rules of Chef Slowik. It’s therefore not difficult to make a comparison with Noma following the 2015 introspective article written by Redzepi admitting he has “been a bully for a large part of my career”.

That’s not all. Without any spoilers, the parallels between the intimate arrival of both locations, the food served and the theatrical experience of being a diner lead many viewers down a thought process likened to the rationale behind common conspiracies: ‘there are just too many similarities for there not to be a link’.

The continuing trend for the media to challenge the hidden narratives of our dining experiences including The Menu, Boiling Point and The Bear, draws attention to the long running reality being some of the best restaurants in the world and it’s a cause for good.

The old guard ‘brigade’ way of running a kitchen is looking increasingly out of date, with Gen Z’rs looking for a workplace with a collaborative feel and a better work life balance. Indeed, many high-end restaurants are changing their opening hours to be more staff friendly and hoping to address the issue of a poor homegrown talent pipeline entering the industry – so, are times changing for the better in the professional kitchen?

After all, if the best restaurant on the globe that formerly touted its commitment to sustainability and evolutionary thinking as it’s raison d’etre, would eventually eat its own words and fall down because the model is ‘no longer sustainable’…let’s hope so!