Advocating a cooking philosophy that captures both time and place, renowned Danish chef René Redzepi is one of few figures who can claim to have reshaped and redefined early 21st-century cuisine. As the mastermind behind Noma, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Copenhagen that’s widely considered one of the best in the world, his approach to Scandinavian cuisine has been distinctly innovative.

Using only locally-sourced, foraged and caught ingredients, Redzepi’s dishes create an artful representation of Nordic culture, landscape, and seasons. Known for a minimalist aesthetic, his emphasis on showcasing the best of the local environment – while experimenting with fermentation and dehydration techniques – has helped elevate Danish cuisine to a level that can compete with any other cuisine in the world.

Following the rise of Noma, Redzepi opened pop-up versions in various cities around the globe, including Tokyo, Sydney, and Tulum. He’s also authored several books of note, including Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, which helped define his locavore ethos, and A Work in Progress, which includes a personal journal written by René with reflections on his creative process. While Noma the restaurant will be closing its doors in 2024, Redzepi plans to reinvent the culinary braintrust as a food laboratory and test kitchen, developing new products and dishes to sell direct-to-consumer.

Sharing ten of his all-time favorite books with NY-based bookstore One Grand, Redzepi included Kitchen Confidential alongside Neruda’s poetry and Orwell’s classic on poverty and society. Explore his recommendations below, and complement with the reading lists of Alice Waters, Anthony Bourdain, Julia Child, and Nigella Lawson.

René Redzepi’s Reading List

El Bulli Sabor del Mediterraneo by Ferran Adrià

“Ferran has authored many books but, to me, this is one of the most important restaurant cookbooks of the last two decades. You can trace back several of the modern culinary movements of the last 20 years in the pages of this book, and it’s laden with beautiful and inspiring images.” -RR

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (also rec’d by Carrie Brownstein)

“You could argue that this book was the real moment of ‘the chef’ as we know it today. I think before this came out, chefs were simply cooks hidden in the basement. This book sparked a new appetite for understanding how, and by whom, our food is prepared. This book (along with Marco Pierre’s White Heat) is one of the two books that propelled professional cooking into the pop culture phenomenon that it is today.” -RR

All the Odes by Pablo Neruda

“I love these odes, they are a brilliant reminder to consider seemingly unimportant everyday objects and moments, and to enjoy the present.” -RR

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (also rec’d by Bill Hader, David LynchJoan DidionNorman Mailer & Philip Roth)

“This was one of the books that I started reading as Noma was opening. I was sleeping on the couch every night, coming home from work completely exhausted, way too stressed out and slowly sinking into some sort of depression. I became totally absorbed by the writing and universe that Dostoyevsky creates; it is the perfect escape.” -RR

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (also rec’d by Hunter S. Thompson & Joan Didion)

“This might be the best book I know of that describes restaurant culture. In general I am a very big fan of George Orwell, I could have selected half of the books on this list to be authored by him. But I particularly enjoy this one because it tells me something about my industry.” -RR

Babette’s Feast by Karen Blixen

“This is a Danish classic. As a cook in Scandinavia, reading this book makes you understand why Scandinavians have such a strange relationship with the act of pleasure. It makes you think about the impact religion has had on the enjoyment of things, particularly food. In other words, after I read this I understand why it can be so bleak here up in the Protestant north.” -RR

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin (also rec’d by Oliver Sacks)

“Lost on a desert island, having a book like this to inspire you, and to learn, would allow you to still dedicate your life to something. Find yourself a little beetle, or a tiny ant. Maintain a sense of curiosity and thrill of exploration.” -RR

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

“My friend Daniel Patterson gave me this book and told me it is one of his favorite books that he’s ever read. Beatty’s use of language and humor is complex and layered, unfolding more and more each time you read it. It is also a book that has taught me—as a Dane—a great deal about the predominant culture in the West — America.” -RR

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (also rec’d by Charlie Munger & Yuval Noah Harari)

“A monster of a book, where you get to learn about the world and the people that we are. It is a book that I tried to read several times before finally reading it through, each time wishing I didn’t have a couple of kids on my shoulder or the roaring engine sound of a modern kitchen in my ears. It is simply the perfect book when you have time to really focus and think.” -RR

The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé

“I spent many hours as a child and teenager digging into Tintin. Actually, it was a difficult choice between Tintin and The Little Prince, because that is another old favorite. Despite being classified as children’s books, I believe these can easily be read and enjoyed by adults.” -RR

(via One Grand Books)

Categories: Chefs