The Irish chef heading to work in the jungle with Noma
When the renowned Copenhagen restaurant opens a pop-up in Tulum, Mexico next month, Cúán Green will be in the (outdoor) kitchen
Cúán Greene at the entrance to Noma restaurant in Copenhagen with his aunt, Doireann de Buitléar. Photograph: Peter Walsh
When René Redzepi’s Noma team open an outdoor restaurant set between the jungle and the Caribbean sea in Tulum, Mexico next month, young Irish chef Cúán Greene will be part of the team, cooking only over fire and using indigenous ingredients from the Yucatán Peninsula.
Greene, who will celebrate his 25th birthday during the 12 weeks he will spend in Mexico, has worked at Noma since January of this year, having previously been at Geranium, also in Copenhagen, which went from two to three Michelin stars during the year he spent there.
This is the third time Redzepi has transplanted his kitchen temporarily, and another young Irish chef, Louise Bannon, participated in the Tokyo (2015) and Sydney (2016) projects.
The entire Noma company, front and back of house, a cohort of around 90, will make the trip to Mexico. The test kitchen team have been in situ since February, and Greene will travel out with the rest of the gang on April 1st. They will have only 11 days to prepare, and acclimatise, before the restaurant opens on April 12th.
“It is going to be incredible to be able to use ingredients we have never seen before and to learn from people who have in-depth knowledge of traditional Mexican cuisine,” said Greene
Redzepi, who holidays annually with his family in Tulum, has a collaborator in this project, his former sous chef Rosio Sanchez, who now owns and runs a taqueria, Hija de Sanchez, in Copenhagen. Sanchez is from Chicago, has Mexican parents and has travelled extensively in the country, researching for her own restaurant and for this project, of which she co-director.
Cooking over fire, the team will serve 150 guests a night. “It will be hot, steaming and unpredictable. Billowing smoke and the orange glow of flames will define us as all cooking will take place over the fire. It will be wild like the Mexican landscape”, Redzepi has said.
Tickets ($600, plus 16% local tax and 9% service) went on sale in December and sold out immediately.
Noma closed its doors for the final time in its original location in Copenhagen in February, and Green will be in the kitchen when it re-opens with a new concept and a new location in the city later this year.
“It has been an incredible couple of months working at Noma ... we were the last generation of chefs to cook at Noma Strandgade,” Greene said. “The final months saw world famous chefs such as Ferran Adrià and Pascal Barbot come to eat their last meals at Noma. On a Friday, there a was waiting list of over 900 tables. I have never experienced such energy in a restaurant before.”
Before he travels to Mexico, Greene is working with Keith Coleman of Fia Café in Rathgar on a one-night pop-up next Monday night, March 27th. Called Roots, the event “will focus on sustainable Irish produce, with emphasis on our cultural heritage, be it fermentation, preservation or other ancient methods of cookery, combined with techniques we have learnt on our respective culinary journeys”.
The bad news is, it sold out almost immediately when the two chefs announced it on social media, so only the lucky few will get to enjoy dishes such as clay baked potato, lovage, bleak roe and buttermilk whey; brown butter and Jerusalem artichoke ice cream sandwich; semi-dried apple, rye, brown cheese and walnut cream. “The bread will be sourced from our friends at Scéal bakery and kombucha will also play a part in the meal.”
Pop-ups are nothing new to Greene, who ran Dublin Pop Up with his college friend Harry Colley while they were studying at DIT, most memorably catering for the Secret Garden in Temple Bar, where they served lunch and dinner for five days, revealing only on completion of the project that all of the food used had been sourced from the supermarket chain Lidl, who booked the pair for the event.
Before studying at DIT, Greene had been living in Corbiéres in France, having moved there with his family when he was 12. His father, a graphic artist, worked mainly with the drinks industry. “He worked closely with wineries, so moving to the south of France meant he would be working within close proximity to the producers and domaines. It was also a great place for us, giving us the opportunity to learn French and to be immersed in French culture.
It was also where Greene “discovered that food could become my profession”, and after working summer jobs in a classic French bistro, he enrolled at DIT in Cathal Brugha Street, while also working in restaurants such as Ely, Thornton’s and One Pico.
The Noma Mexico adventure is the latest instalment in a culinary career that has marked Greene out as one to follow, and part of an elite band of young Irish chefs forging international reputations.