René Redzepi is the latest star chef to bring the farm closer to the table. Next year, he will close the world-renowned restaurant Noma, in Copenhagen, Denmark, only to reopen it in 2017 along with a new urban farm that will supply seasonal foods to Noma’s updated menu.
Mr. Redzepi, who’s internationally recognized for his inventive interpretation of Nordic cuisine, told The New York Times that he will turn a decrepit warehouse in Copenhagen’s Christiania neighborhood into a bountiful agrarian oasis.
Part of his urban farm will float on a raft, Redzepi told the Times, and part will be in a greenhouse on the roof. The whole operation is to be managed by a full-time farmer with a dedicated team. During fecund summer months, Noma will be strictly vegetarian.
“It makes sense to have your own farm, as a restaurant of this caliber," the chef said.
But Redzepi is not the first to come to this conclusion. The idea to use fresh, locally produced ingredients was pioneered in Berkeley, Calif. by Chez Panisse co-founder and award-winning chef Alice Waters. In the last decade, star chefs from New York to Chicago to Seattle have begun to raise chickens and grow tomatoes in patches of land next to their restaurants.
“The urban farm and sustainable agriculture movements are doing just fine, thank you,” said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and sociology at New York University, in an e-mail.
“And unless things are different in Denmark, Redzepi is following a trend, not leading it,” she added, though she did point out that having a high-profile chef sign on supports the growing movement to grow organic food closer to where it is consumed, instead of shipping it, mass produced and frozen, around the world.
Beyond occupying star chefs and impressing their wealthy patrons, bringing farming to cities – on rooftops, in abandoned warehouses and in unused parking lots – is heralded as one potential solution to healthfully feeding a growing population on shrinking farmland.
“People are starting to understand the value of urban agriculture,” said Jessie Banhazl, founder of Green City Growers in Boston, which built a 5,000-square-foot rooftop farm at Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball's Red Sox. It will produce 4,000 pounds of organic produce like radishes, pea shoots and kale during baseball season (which luckily coincides with produce-growing season), for use at Fenway eateries.
"This space was previously unused, so it's taking a previously blank area and making it productive,” Ms. Banhazl told NBC News in August.