“We have to step outside to get a little bit of peace,” said René Redzepi, the chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. Dinner service was hours away, but the sprawling kitchen was already abuzz with activity and classic rock, so we stepped outside to chat. Sipping green tea, Mr. Redzepi, 40, asked me how my family — including my 6-year-old daughter — was faring on our first trip to Copenhagen. Like other Europeans, he was a little shocked to hear that we were only in town for a week.
“For kids, a week is nothing,” he said. There are people, he had heard, “who sit in the airport and wait for their souls to arrive. I like the thought of that. Traveling is so fast and so easy. A part of you needs to catch up.”
Mr. Redzepi has had to do a lot of catching up. After Noma won the No. 1 spot on San Pellegrino’s Best Restaurants in the World list four times in five years, he closed it, reopening it in February in a new location. In the interim, he had managed pop-ups in Tokyo, Sydney, and Tulum, Mexico, each of which had given him and his extensive team inspiration for the 20-or-so course tasting menu — the theme of which changes with the season (we sampled the summer version, which was almost entirely created from vegetables; fall has seen a switch to game) at what followers are calling Noma 2.0.
One of the features of the new space is a dedicated fermentation lab, which itself has spawned a new book, “The Noma Guide to Fermentation,” written by Mr. Redzepi and David Zilber, the chef who runs the lab (or “bunker,” as Mr. Redzepi calls it).
Here are excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Redzepi, edited for length and clarity.
You’ve done so much traveling for work. Do you get a chance to travel for fun with your family, including your three children?
You know what, I made a big mistake. It’s almost three years since I had a proper vacation. That’s a mistake. My kids have traveled with their mother. And we’ve done pop-ups — but actual vacation? It’s not the same thing.
Is that because —
This [he gestures to the kitchen]. The whole thing.
Talk me through closing the old Noma space and opening the new one.
It’s only two kilometers away, yet it’s a world of difference. You’ve spent 15 years in one place and you’re actually happy and it’s working. But for some reason, you need to move. At the height of your game, you need to move to a place where you have to figure out, how is this all going to work? It’s a creative feeling that there was no more in that old space. And going to a different place changes things.
Tell me about the pop-ups.
There were a few reasons they happened, but one of the main reasons was because I was very worried that we would move to a different location and then just adapt to all the old ways creatively. We need to travel. We need to go somewhere completely different.
How do you feel like those trips infused the new Copenhagen spot?
Hugely. In Japan, the study of umami was mega for us. Australia was the first time we had a seafood menu, where we tried to focus on a singular topic. And then Mexico, it’s more about a spirit, a way of eating, a conviviality, sharing using your hands. And then of course learning how to work with spice. It’s about activating the taste buds. And we’re not done with traveling, of course. I can’t say it, because I’m afraid I’ll jinx it. But it becomes addictive.
What drew you to Tulum? It seems like you fell in love with it.
A: My favorite place in the world is the Yucatán. I’m not talking about Quintana Roo, where Tulum is, but the state of Yucatán, in the center of the peninsula. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time. You are away from everything. The first time I ever went there was 12 years ago, to a tiny village where the Mayan ladies were making tortillas for us. And I had the traditional cochinita [pibil, a traditional slow-roasted pork dish], cooked in the ground. It was one of the best bites I’ve never had. There’s so much craft, so much incredible uniqueness, once you travel around Mexico.
Are there any travel habits you’ve adopted over the years?
Working out. It sounds a little banal, but getting into a routine where you get settled in, and then wake up in the morning and immediately start a workout routine. That, to me, is how you zoom in quickly.
Are there things you do to expose your three children to new cultures?
Food. Don’t even start with “here’s a bowl of macaroni.” My kids are as happy to get a slice of sourdough as they are getting a tortilla.