Noma, a renowned Danish restaurant run by Chef Rene Redzepi, has found a new home close to ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico along the country’s Caribbean coast.
The temporary pop-up restaurant has been widely criticized as a “gastronomical colonialism” venture.
The restaurant, appropriating local culture and folklore, offers Mexican-inspired delicacies such as octopus in pumpkin seed sauce, fresh coconut cream, caviar served in a coconut shell, banana ceviche and freshly made corn tortillas, all at exorbitant prices.
In a country where the minimum wage in Mexico is US$5 and a majority of the population lives in poverty, the restaurant's tasting menu starts from US$600 with an additional 16 percent tax and a 9 percent service fee.
Claudia Prieto Piastro, a food anthropologist with HuffPost Mexico, said, “I sincerely think Redzepi’s project is gastronomical colonialism. Charging $600 for dinner in a country that is experiencing an economic and social crisis tells us he has no idea of what is happening in the country he says he admires so much.”
"People would benefit more from having traveled to Mexico to learn than they would from the Mexican ingredients in the menu of Noma 2.0. But no, now we have another restaurant for gringos, with dinners for two that can reach US$1,500 including taxes and gratuities," she added.
"The market lady from Coyoacán will always make better tortillas, less sophisticated, but more honest."
Redzepi attributed the spiked prices to bringing in a full overseas staff for seven weeks. The temporary restaurant has also added additional dining spaces at its bar – charging a reduced $100 per person, donating the proceeds to a Mayan charity. It has also offered scholarships for Mexican culinary students and offered them tickets to dine in its pop-up, the Guardian reported.
But critics are finding Redzepi's approach hard to digest, calling it a culinary colonialism.
Cristina Potters, a Mexican citizen and longtime writer of the website Mexico Cooks!, told the Guardian, “Redzepi discovered exactly what the early Spaniards discovered in Mexico: gold. The gold of our biodiversity, the gold of our year-round bounty of comestibles, the gold of our ancient willingness to take in the foreigner, our hospitality to new ideas."
“(Redzepi’s) creations look like miracles, and people are raving about the flavours. But it’s not Mexican food any more than Taco Bell is Mexican food,” Potters told the Guardian.
“Both are someone’s ideas of what Mexican food will sell: one on the extreme low end, and one on the extreme high end," Potters added.