TIME Travel

Copenhagen: What to See and What to Skip

The world's best restaurant "Noma" in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014.
Tivoli gardens seen at night on July 12, 2012. Jean-Pierre Lescourre—Corbis

Denmark's capital may be expensive but it's worth it

On paper, Copenhagen sounds too good to be true. For years now the Danish capital has been heralded for its design-consciousness, trumpeted as the globe’s most sustainable and bike-friendly city, venerated as a culinary destination that houses the best restaurant in the world, and held up as home to the world’s happiest people. In truth, this supposed urban utopia does have some flaws: ridiculously high prices and a tragic lack of decent Mexican restaurants among them. But from its striking architecture to its happening cocktail bars to its abundant green space, Copenhagen comes pretty close to the platonic ideal of a city.

What to See

Copenhagen - Black Diamond
View of the modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library The Black Diamond in Copenhagen on April 18, 2014. Nicole Becker—dpa/Corbis

Tivoli Gardens completely lives up to its hype. The amusement park’s old-school rides (including a century-old roller coaster) are tucked between flowering gardens and outdoor cafés right in the city center, making it charming in a way that Six Flags will never be. For more modern design, check out the Design Museum, which will teach you more about the chair than you thought possible, or simply take in some of the city’s more gorgeous buildings, like its soaring Opera House, or the Black Diamond, a dramatically angled building that also houses the Danish Royal Library. The National Gallery houses an excellent collection that runs from Rembrandt to the avant-garde Asger Jorn, but for contemporary art, the Louisiana Art Museum, overlooking the Oresund Sound, is a quick 35-minutes by train away and hard to beat.

Christiansborg palace where the Danish parliament resides April 28, 2014.
Christiansborg palace where the Danish parliament resides April 28, 2014. Francis Dean—Deanpictures/Corbis

Back in town, fans of the gripping political TV drama Borgen can see where fictional Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg went to work each day at Christiansborg Palace, which houses all three branches of the national government, as well as some royal reception halls. But the city’s other famous female resident, the Little Mermaid, can safely be skipped. The harborside statue of native Hans Christian Andersen’s aquatic heroine may be one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, but it is also disconcertingly small and of questionable artistic value.

Where to Eat and Drink

The world's best restaurant "Noma" in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014.
The world’s best restaurant “Noma” in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014. Joerg Carstensen—Corbis

You might as well start at the top. Noma has been voted best restaurant in the world four times for its artful, delicious “New Nordic” cuisine, which relies solely on pristine ingredients from the region. Reservations can be hard to come by (try requesting them for lunch instead of dinner), but happily, chefs who formerly worked at Noma have been opening their own restaurants in recent years. At the casual Relæ, Christian Puglisi treats the ingredients on his vegetable-heavy menu with a gentle hand but an innovative eye, while at Amass, American chef Matt Orlando is so deeply in tune with the seasons that he changes the rustic-looking but technically-sophisticated dishes on his tasting menu almost daily. Not all of Copenhagen’s gustatory pleasures are so high-end, however. Smørrebrod, the open-faced sandwich that is the most typical of Danish foods, is elevated to a complex art at Schønnemann. And Copenhageners have been packing the recently-opened Papirøen, where stalls sell all manner of street food, from Moroccan merguez sausages to German apple pancakes. It’s a much more interesting option than the city’s one indigenous form of food truck, the omnipresent pølser wagons, or hot dog carts.

Not all of the city’s gustatory pleasures require chewing. Coffee Collective is renowned among coffee geeks, and Atelier September makes an exquisite matcha tea. Mikkeller serves up some of the best, if quirkiest, artisanal beers in Europe, and the city positively swims in personable wine bars like Ved Stranden, Den Vandrette, and Sabotøren. And there is no shortage of cozy cocktail bars either. Ruby specializes in the classics.

Tourboats in Nyhavn Canal Copenhagen
Tourboats in Nyhavn Canal on in Copenhagen on May 7, 2011. MyLoupe/Universal Image Group/Getty Images

What to Do

Much of Strøget, the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street, is given over to high street brands like Zara, but there are some quintessentially Danish jewels there too, like Hay and Illium Bolighus, both of which sell irresistible, beautifully-designed housewares. The Torvehallerne market is great for shopping of a more edible sort, with an outdoor produce market and indoor stalls selling everything from cakes to sushi. A canal tour is the most popular option for seeing Copenhagen’s many waterways, but a DIY version, via kayak, gets you even closer.

City electric bikes are for rent for visitors at central station on April 24, 2014 in Copenhagen. Francis Dean—Corbis

And in a city with over 390 kilometers of dedicated lanes, you may as well give in to peer pressure and rent a bike; it’s the most scenic way to get to Amager Strandpark beach south of the city, and the rolling deer park, Dyrehave, to the north. The restaurants and cafes of Nyhavn are thoroughly missable, specializing as they do in serving over-priced, mediocre food and drink to generally drunk tourists. But the pastel houses lining the harbor there are just as picturesque as the postcards suggest, especially on those long summer days when the clear northern light illuminates this lovely, near-perfect city.

TIME Spain

Heavy Lies The Crown for New King of Spain

Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Spain's King Juan Carlos salute Spain's Queen Sofia during the Pascua Militar ceremony at the Royal Palace in Madrid on January 6, 2014. Dominique Faget—AFP/Getty Images

Felipe has the possibility to do far more than improve the fortunes of a declining monarchy

Just after one o’clock in the morning on Feb. 23, 1981, while most of the country’s legislators cowered beneath their desks, a young King Juan Carlos appeared on television screens across Spain. Dressed in his army uniform, he denounced an attempted coup then underway on the floor of Parliament by armed military officers intent on returning the country to a rightwing dictatorship. That act of political courage would not only bring the insurrection to a quick and bloodless end, but would cement the king’s reputation for decades to come. Britain might chortle at a prince given to dialing in distasteful endearments to a woman not (then) his wife, and Monaco might mock a princess given to body guards and elephant trainers. But for decades after Juan Carlos assumed the throne in 1975, Spain largely respected and admired its monarch. Yet even the memory of heroism can’t withstand expensive, indiscreet travels and a money-skimming son-in-law, at least not at a time of dire economic crisis. In recent years, the king’s reputation has been profoundly damaged, and with it, the monarchy’s. The abdication Juan Carlos announced Monday, after 39 years of rule, was quite possibly the best option left to him for preserving it.

By abdicating in favor of his son Felipe, Juan Carlos has tapped the one adult member of the royal family—apart from his wife Queen Sofia—who still ranks high in the public’s esteem. With a Master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University, and an apparently happy marriage that has produced two adorably media-friendly young girls, Felipe seems well-prepared for the role of modern monarch. Perhaps more importantly, he has avoided the scandals that have plagued his siblings Elena (divorce) and Cristina (alleged embezzlement and influence-peddling), and his father (breaking a hip while on a secret elephant-hunting trip in Botswana with a woman who is not his wife). A January survey conducted by the Spanish polling firm Sigma Dos gave the crown prince an approval rating of 66% (versus his father’s 41%); 57% of those polled said they believed he could restore the crown’s prestige.

But Felipe has the possibility to do far more than improve the fortunes of a declining monarchy. The crisis in Spain, after all, is not just economic—it’s also political, with deep and broad corruption permeating every level of government. Witness the Gurtel case, in which dozens of leading officials in the region of Valencia have been charged with bribery and money laundering. Or the Barcenas case, in which a former treasurer for the ruling Popular Party has admitted to maintaining secret accounts through which he supplemented the salaries of the party’s upper echelons. That’s without mentioning the Infanta Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, indicted for using their purportedly not-for-profit Noós Institute to allegedly embezzle some 8 million euros, mostly from government contracts.

Exacerbating the sense of decay in Spain is the lack of strong alternatives for political leadership. The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is a technocrat who own approval ratings stand at about 22%. The uncharismatic opposition leader, Alberto Rubalcaba, is an old-school Socialist who just resigned in the face of his own party’s catastrophic showing in the European Union elections on May 25. In fact, Spaniards are so desperate for change that in those elections they denied both the Socialists and the Popular Party a majority for the first time in the country’s 35 years of democracy. Instead, they gave 8% of the vote—and five seats in the European parliament—to an upstart, anti-austerity, anti-establishment party called Podemos (We Can) that was founded just three months ago.

And here’s where Felipe, with his 66% approval rating, comes in. Other monarchs have used their influence to lessen tensions or ameliorate their domestic political situation. Although Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej recently threw his support behind the leader of a military coup in the country, he had previously, and for many years, defused tensions in his country by forcing the military to talk with the protestors who opposed them. King Albert II more than once prevented the collapse of Belgium’s often fragile government by bringing opposing political leaders back to the bargaining table.

So imagine this: A newly coronated King Felipe announces that transparency will be his first order of business. To that end, he will open all of the palace’s accounts to full public scrutiny. (In an attempt to improve its image the palace recently announced it would voluntarily adhere to Spain’s new transparency law, but with many loopholes.) He will demand that his sister and brother-in-law, if found guilty, face the same punishment of any other Spaniard. And he will encourage all of Spain’s institutions to follow suit, to embrace transparency and adopt zero tolerance for corruption.

Would it work? Although he has begun assuming more responsibilities as his father’s health has declined, Felipe is largely untested. Many Spaniards greeted Monday’s news of abdication with a rally in favor of republicanism. But many of those same people, like every Spaniard over the age of 40, remember the night 33 years ago when it seemed more than likely that, after the briefest of flirtations with democracy, the country would revert back to the authoritarianism it knew best.

For the fact that it didn’t, Spain has a king to thank.


Austria’s Conchita Wurst Wins Eurovision Song Contest

Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst was named winner of the Eurovision song competition Saturday — a victory that took on extra political meaning amid Russia's incursion into Crimea and anti-gay sentiment in Russia and Eastern Europe


Was there ever a more perfect Eurovision winner than Conchita Wurst? Possessor of long, brunette locks that undulate down her shimmering gown, an alto that sounds straight out of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical circa Jesus Christ Superstar, and a beard that a Brooklyn bartender would envy, the Austrian contestant took the top honors last night in Copenhagen. It was a victory that thrilled the 11,000-strong audience, and not only because her winning song, “Rise Like a Phoenix,” was so very … very. To many gathered for what is often called the Gay World Cup, Wurst’s victory was also a victory against homophobia. And, not incidentally, Russia.

An annual competition that pits three dozen or so European nations against one another in a glitter-spangled maelstrom of wind machines, detachable clothing and the cheesiest tunes in pop music, the Eurovision Song Contest is exactly what it says. Held in the homeland of the previous year’s winner, the competition, in which each nation’s contestant performs a song written specially for the occasion, is broadcast live throughout the continent (and in Australia, for reasons best understood by the Australians themselves). The winner, who in the past has included pop luminaries like ABBA (Sweden) and Celine Dion (Switzerland), is decided partly by a jury made up of professionals and partly by viewers, who vote for their favorites via text message or app. Which is precisely where things get interesting. Though any geeked-out aficionado will tell you that Eurovision is all about the music, politics has a way of slipping in. This year was no exception.

“We love her!” gushed David Christley, of Wurst, in the minutes before the competition started. Though British-born and living in Holland, Christley and his partner were wearing postcards of the Austrian candidate tucked into their neon orange top hats. “It would be such a slap in the face to Russia if she won.”

Indeed, when Austria announced its candidate, several Russian organizations called for a boycott of Eurovision 2014. St. Petersburg legislator Vitaly Milonov — the same one who said that gay athletes could be subject to arrest at the Sochi Olympics if they “promoted” homosexuality to minors — referred to Wurst as a “pervert” whose presence at what he disapprovingly called “Europe’s gay parade” would “insult millions of Russians.” Thousands of Belarusians also protested, signing a petition for block her from the Belarusian broadcast of the competition.

If anything, those objections only increased support for Wurst, whose fans at last night’s competition took to wearing crocheted chinstraps meant, apparently, to simulate beards. But they were not the only reason why anti-Russian sentiment was running high in Copenhagen. The country’s recent incursions into Ukraine also played a role. Weeks before, Eurovision organizers decided that, for purposes of the competition, Crimea still counted as Ukraine. It was unclear however, which nation that helped, since the rules of the competition prevent voters from casting a ballot for their own country. So although Crimea might not, in the Eurovision universe, be Russian, it could now vote for Russia.

In Copenhagen, however, the Russian contestants (twin sisters named Anastasiya and Maria Tolmachevy) were booed during the semifinals. Inexplicably dressed in a wolf suit, Anders Lundsten of Gothenburg, Sweden, said he felt sorry for the girls. “But I also feel sorry for the Ukrainians. No one should be taken over by another country.”

Mariya Yaremchuk, the Ukrainian contestant, didn’t want anybody’s sympathy vote. In an interview with TIME, she said that getting to the final was “like getting all your happy birthdays in one day,” and she was convinced she had arrived there solely on the merits of her peppy “Tick Tock,” which she screeched sang onstage in front of a man running in an outsize hamster wheel. “Of course, as a Ukrainian girl, I am very nervous about what is going on at home. But as a singer, my main goal is to express my wish of happiness to all people. For me, it is all about the music.”

Ah yes, the music. Looking like an extra from Fiddler on the Roof, Swiss candidate Sebalter warbled lyrics no lover could resist — “I am the hunter, you are the prey/ Tonight I’m going to eat you up” — to a Mumford and Sons–esque tune, complete with Swiss banjo. Despite a hairdo that towered a good 12 in. from his scalp, the lead singer of the French boy band Twin Twin pranced around the stage, singing insistently about his desire for a “moostash,” while images of facial hair flashed behind him. Poland surpassed even that display of good taste. Sounding vaguely like a Japanese hip-hop band but dressed in cleavage-baring bodices and traditional skirts, Donatan and Cleo belted out their song, “We Are Slavic.” When they reached the stirring chorus — “We are Slavic, we know how it is/ We like to shake what mama in the genes gave us/ This is the hot blood, this is our Slavic call” — one well-endowed band member sat on the corner of the stage and simulated, shall we say, a particularly enjoyable butter-churning session.

In comparison, the Tolmachevy twins, who began their performance conjoined by their blond ponytails before separating to opposite ends of a giant seesaw, seemed downright musical. But when the votes started coming in, and a few countries — most of them former Soviet bloc — gave their points to Russia, the booing began again. At one point, the sounds of displeasure were loud enough that the presenter — Pilou Asbæk, better known to viewers of Borgen as “spin doctor” Kasper Juul — had to interrupt his shamelessly pandering jokes about well-muscled men to remind the audience, “It’s all about music and love.”

Alina and Vitaly knew better. Ukrainian agriculture students from Kharkov, they didn’t want to give their last names but weren’t afraid to say whom they were voting for. “Ukrainian contestant not so good,” said Alina. “But we love the Russians! We will vote for them.”

In the end, that love wasn’t enough for the Barbie-like Tolmachevy twins, who came in seventh. The girls had declined all requests to speak with foreign media, preferring, as one of their handlers said, “to focus on the music.” Still, it was hard not to see something more than a catchy ditty between the lines of their entry, “Shine”:

Living on the edge
closer to the crime
cross the line a step at a time

Now maybe there’s a place
maybe there’s a time
maybe there’s a day you’ll be mine



These Are The 10 Best Restaurants in The World

Spanish Chefs of "El Celler de Can Roca" Joan Roca, center, Jordi Roca, left, and Josep Roca, right, pose with their employees at the restaurant in Girona on April 30, 2013. Quique Garcia—AFP/Getty Images

Each year, fine diners, restaurateurs and food writers—I’m in the last group—try to read the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurant list like tea leaves, searching for trends, or at the very least, a coherent theme. But as in previous years, the 2014 edition, which was announced in London late last month, defies unifying logic. The restaurants that made the full list of 100 range from David Chang’s decidedly informal and unsedate Momofuku Ssam Bar, to Alain Ducasse’s paragon of plushness, Louis XIV, in Monaco. That said, in the past several years, the highest-ranking positions have tended to go to restaurants that balance at least a degree of luxury (although not always formal, none of them are cheap) with an embrace of innovation.

Such is the influence of the 50 Best that once a restaurant reaches the upper echelons of the list, its already sparse reservations become exceedingly difficult to come by. Several of the top places only allow bookings well in advance (for Noma it’s 3 months; for Eleven Madison it’s 28 days), and reservations disappear within minutes, so it helps to be online or on the phone as soon as they’re released. But if a quick hand with reservations website OpenTable or the cellphone doesn’t yield the desired results, there’s another possibility: Email the restaurant, give a range of dates when you’re available (the more flexible you are, the better your chances), and ask politely to be put on the wait list. Even the best restaurants frequently get cancellations.

Here’s a quick look at the top ten on this year’s 50 Best List. In most cases, the descriptions are based on my personal experience, but research and—the reports of colleagues—have filled in the details for the restaurants I haven’t visited.

1. Noma, (Copenhagen, Denmark). Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $600.

After losing the top ranking in 2013 (it had held the No. spot for the three previous years), Noma is firing on all cylinders these days. Located in an old whaling warehouse, the restaurant is the birthplace of “new Nordic” cuisine, which relies solely on ingredients available in region. But today, the restaurant is pushing far beyond its early days of foraged sea buckthorn and reindeer lichen. Dinner these days might start with a whole kohlrabi, filled with its fermented juice and bored with a straw, so that it looks and tastes like a coconut drink. The meal might then proceed through aebleskivers –a traditional Danish kind of fritter—brushed with a sauce made from fermented grasshopper, and end with a dessert of potato, almond, and plum purée. It sounds wacky, but somehow Redzepi and his crew manage to make it all delicious. As well as deeply pleasurable: Noma continues to offer what may well be the most engaged—and engaging—service in the world.

2. Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $390-480.

Celler de Can Roca is run by three brothers — head chef Joan, sommelier Josep, and pastry chef Jordi — who came by their trade honestly: they learned it from their parents. But it’s hard to imagine anything further from your average mom and pop cooking. In what may very well be the most beautiful dining room in Europe, a Roca meal dazzles with its wizardry (a starter called Eat The World that encapsulates, in five distinct bites, the tastes of the five different cuisines; a dessert called Messi’s Goal, that recreates, with a candied pitch, flying white chocolate balls, and a plateside iPod playing the roars of the crowd, what it feels like when Barcelona’s soccer hero Lionel Messi scores), while remaining firmly rooted in the flavors of the Mediterranean. Josep brings lucky guests on a tour of his cellar, where favorite wines have been singled out for multi-sensory treatments.

3. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $360-525.

Behind a stately exterior, the world’s most emotive chef, Massimo Bottura, cooks flights of fantasy and memory. The first sign that this is not your ordinary upscale Italian restaurant comes from the abstract contemporary paintings on the wall, but the art continues on the plate. The mortadella sandwich of every Italian child’s memory is turned into an impossibly light mousse, a Magnum ice cream bar becomes a sophisticated, foie-gras stuffed bite. And like his spectacular lacquered eel, which Bottura serves with saba and polenta to represent the apples and corn the eel would encounter on its way up the nearby Po river, his dishes are made more evocative by the stories that accompany them.

4. Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $450.

In this hushed yet theatrical dining room, Swiss-born chef Daniel Humm takes the whole farm-to-table movement, imbues it with a bit of French savoir-faire, and, like an alchemist, comes out with the quintessential New York restaurant. Indeed, the sense of place here comes not just from the locally grown and produced ingredients, but from Humm’s knowing nod to New York’s culinary culture. Pristine carrots, for example, get turned into a lightly whimsical take on steak tartare; sturgeon (brought to the table under a smoke-filled cloche) is served with the restaurant’s take on an everything bagel. Excellent service — graceful, attentive, modern — adds to the sense of supreme well-being.

5. Dinner. London, England. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $230.

Heston Blumenthal took his fascination with English culinary history and turned it into something unexpectedly interesting for the rest of us. At the fashionable Dinner, located at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London and overseen by chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, traditional (if quirkily named) dishes like Salamugundy and meat fruit are transformed into modern-day marvels (the latter into a light but rich chicken liver parfait, made up to look exactly like a mandarin orange) Is it indeed the U.K.’s best restaurant? Probably not. But as history lessons go, this one goes down extremely easily.

6. Mugaritz, Errenteria, Spain. Cost of meal for two, without wine: $470.

Andoni Luis Aduriz is the Aristotle of contemporary cuisine, a philosopher-king tucked away in the rolling hills of the Basque Country, about 20 minutes drive from San Sebastian. Cerebral, technically accomplished dishes like the Bloody Mary tomato (which looks and feels like a fresh tomato, but tastes of the cocktail), or his famous potato stones (whose river rock appearance gives the diner the uncomfortable sensation of being about to break her teeth), he manages to consistently surprise and delight his customers, all while maintaining a deep, almost pantheistic reverence for the nature around him.

7. D.O.M. Saõ Paulo, Brazil. Cost of meal for two, without wine: $400.

Given the media’s predilection for depicting chef Alex Atala standing thigh-deep in his much-loved Amazon, bare-chested and draped with a giant fish like some kind of latter-day Tarzan, it comes as something of a surprise that his restaurant is so refined. But the delicacy of signature dishes, like a pappardelle made from hearts of palm or a ceviche crafted of indigenous flavors, belies the wallop of their unusual flavors — and has helped Brazilians discover the bounty of their native terroir. Even the Amazonian ants he serves, redolent of lemongrass and placed gently atop a cube of pineapple, seem elegant.

8. Arzak. San Sebastian, Spain. Cost of meal for two, without wine: $530.

Juan Mari Arzak is one of the great geniuses of Spanish gastronomy, among the first to bring modern techniques and flavors to bear on regional cuisine — in his case, that of his native Basque Country. The kitchen of his restaurant, which is housed in a quaint-looking building but is surprisingly sleek inside, is now run largely by his daughter Elena. She continues the Basque-inflected innovation, with dishes like “waves” (they’re created with molds) of local spider crab and anise or monkfish cooked in a balloon of edible green papier-máche that manage to feel both regionally grounded and whimsical.

9. Alinea, Chicago, Illinois. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $420.

Grant Achatz did a brief stint at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli, and ever since has been out avant-garding what was once the most avant-garde restaurant in the world. The 18-or-so-course tasting menu carries titles like “Scallop Acting Like Agedashi Tofu” and the tableware — some of it lovely, some of it looking like it was lifted from the spike-and-pincer collection of the Spanish Inquisition— is tailor-made for each course. Dinner in this Chicago restaurant consists of carefully-scripted experiences more than dishes: one course requires the diner to fold her own ravioli from a sheet of tomato pasta that, moments before, looked to be a decorative flag, while the final dessert, a mix of dark chocolate and about a hundred other things, is painted, drizzled and scattered by a chef directly on the table itself.

10. The Ledbury, London, England. Cost of a meal for two, without wine: $270.

Among the top ten restaurants, the Ledbury is probably the most classical, which is to say that its chef, Australian-born Brett Graham, is more interested in pleasure than wizardry. The dishes served in this London restaurant may not be as visually striking as in other places, but their flavors are deep and layered. Case in point: a buffalo milk curd, spread creamily onto crisp toasts that are topped with Iberico ham and served with a rich onion broth. Or grilled mackerel, its oily brine mellowed with cured avocado and brightened with shiso. And with a chef who hunts his own wild birds, this is the place in London to try game.


Noma’s Best Restaurant Win Tastes Pretty Sweet To Chef Rene Redzepi

Rene Redzepi Noma Restaurant
Danish chef Rene Redzepi in London on April 29, 2013. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

After losing the title last year, Copenhagen's Noma has once again been named the best restaurant in the world. “This is better than the three previous wins combined,” Redzepi tells TIME

As late as the afternoon of April 28, Rene Redzepi was warning his staff they would probably drop in the rankings of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which were to be announced that evening, by making cryptic comments about Isaac Newton. “The rules for this competition were established over three hundred years ago,” he said at lunch with his staff. “What goes up must come down.”

But gravity, it seems, doesn’t apply to restaurants. After losing the top ranking in 2013, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma last night regained the status it had held during the three years prior. When Redzepi and his team mounted the stage of London’s Guildhall last night to claim the prize of best restaurant in the world, the joy was palpable. “It doesn’t even compare,” the 36-year-old chef said of his comeback, in an interview with TIME. “This is better than the three previous wins combined.”

The victory gave Redzepi and his team a much-needed sense of redemption. But it also promised a return to the peculiar status and opportunities that come with being number one. Although the World’s 50 Best list started twelve years ago as a lark—the founders of Restaurant magazine were, in one late-night brainstorming session, trying to come up with ways to attract attention to their publication—it has grown to become one of the most influential forces in modern gastronomy.

For the staff at Noma, returning to the top position has been especially rewarding after a difficult year. In February of 2013, the restaurant experienced an outbreak of norovirus that, although quickly controlled, prompted a deluge of gleeful reports in the media, as well as hate mail and death threats. Two months later, the restaurant lost its top ranking. And in the same period, its head chef and several sous chefs, all of whom had been with the restaurant for years, left to strike out on their own.

“For a while, it felt like there was only bad news out of Noma,” Redzepi says.

But the hardships and criticism may have spurred the restaurant’s crew to greater heights. For many chefs and critics who dined at Noma in the last year, it was their best meal ever at the restaurant. Their number includes David Chang, chef and owner of the Momofuku restaurants in New York, Toronto, and Sydney. “I knew right then that they were going to get number one again,” he told TIME after dinner there in August. “You could taste the anger.”

Unlike the Michelin guide, which relies on the assessment of professional inspectors to award its stars, the 50 Best list is decided by industry peers. Divided into 26 regional juries, more than 900 chefs, food writers, and gourmands vote for best restaurants in which they have dined over the previous 18 months. That structure makes the list particularly valuable to chefs, for it is flexible enough to respond quickly to changes in the dining scene (witness London’s Clove Club, which opened exactly a year ago, enter at number 87 on the Top 100 list). But even more importantly, it provides a form of recognition from their peers that many chefs crave—and, once earned, want to maintain. “The list has become incredibly important to them,” says Swedish food critic Mattias Kroon. “It’s heroin for chefs.”

There are also financial reasons for the addiction. At a breakfast the morning of the awards ceremony, Joan and Josep Roca, chef and sommelier of Spain’s Celler de Can Roca, which won the title in 2013, talked about its impact. In the twelve months following their victory, they received 121,000 reservation requests, and more than 1200 journalists visited the restaurant to write stories about it. They received a sponsorship from Spain’s BBVA bank that will allow them to close their restaurant in the Catalan city of Girona for a few months later this year, and re-open it as a pop-up in a series of Latin American cities.

Opportunities like that are beginning to bring around even France’s chefs, who have typically disdained the list for its populism, and for rewarding trendiness rather than quality. (No French restaurants made this year’s top 10, though Argentina-born Mauro Colagreco’s restaurant Mirazur, on the French Mediterranean, came in at number 11.) “They still don’t like it,” says Alexandra Michot, a food writer who was until recently restaurant critic for Le Figaro. “But they’re starting to see that a high-ranking fills seats.” Further to the south, chef Quique Dacosta, whose eponymous restaurant in Denia, Spain came in at number 41, agrees. “You may or may not like everything about how the list works,” he says. “But there’s no denying how important it’s become for getting diners, especially international ones.”

In other words, the slight drop-off in reservation requests that Noma has experienced in the past few months has likely already been reversed by the time of this article’s publication (the flood of visitors had already crashed the restaurant’s website twice in the 12 hours after the announcement). And the victory will give added ballast to projects already underway, like the opening of a Noma pop-up in Tokyo in January and February of 2015 which, Redzepi believes, will now likely sell out.

Wielding its increasing clout, the organizers of this year’s event refused to leak the results to journalists covering the event, which meant that, unlike in the past, neither they, nor the winning chefs they were seeking to interview on deadline, had any idea who would take the title. So Redzepi was truly surprised last night when, trembling with emotion, he led his crew to the stage. “Guys,” he said, “We did it.”

TIME food and drink

Noma Back on Top as World’s Best Restaurant

Casper Christoffersen—AFP/Getty Images

After losing the title of the finest eating establishment in the world to Spain's Celler de Can Roca last year, Copenhagen's Noma restaurant regained the title in 2014. Held annually since 2002, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards are the Oscars of the food world

Is there any victory sweeter than a comeback? One year after his restaurant Noma lost the title of best in the world, chef René Redzepi regained the title tonight at London’s Guildhall, where the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards were announced.

For weeks leading up to tonight’s ceremony, Redzepi had been trying to ward off a repeat of last year’s disappointment by warning his staff that they weren’t going to win. Even as late as lunch today, he was making cryptic comments about what goes up having to come down. Losing in 2013 after three years on top came as a psychological blow to Redzepi and his staff, making Monday’s win all the more gratifying.

Held annually since 2002, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards are the Oscars of the food world. Run by London-based Restaurant magazine, they have become tremendously influential in their twelve-year history. Part of that influence is financial; last year’s winner and this year’s number two, Spain’s Celler de Can Roca, received over 121,000 reservations in the past twelve months. But just as important is the way in which the awards are decided.

Over 900 chefs, food writers, and gourmands around the world vote each year, which transforms the 50 Best into a rare form of peer recognition. That may explain why Redezpi’s voice shook so much when, on stage to accept the award, he turned to acknowledge his team. “Guys,” he said, “We did it.”

The top five restaurants were:

1. Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)

2. El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain)

3. Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy)

4. Eleven Madison Park (New York City, U.S.)

5. Dinner By Heston Blumenthal (London, U.K.)


TIME Food and Spirits

VIDEO: The World’s Best Chefs Punked Wylie Dufresne for One Epic Meal

Wylie Dufresne is surprised by a retinue of famous foodies, including Padma Lakshmi. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz

Twenty-nine famous chefs, from Daniel Boulud to David Chang, got together to cook a seriously scrumptious dinner

Wylie Dufresne was taking a rare day off when, around 7 p.m. on April 8, he got the call every chef dreads. There had been an electrical outage on New York’s Lower East Side and because his restaurant WD-50 was closed that night, there was no one around to take care of all the raw fish and vegetables in the walk-ins that would soon begin to go bad. Racing to his restaurant, considered one of the finest examples of molecular gastronomy in the United States, he fretted: Would he be able to save the produce that packed his walk-refrigerators? Would he be able to afford to get the damn system fixed?

His anxiety was soon displaced by shock, when he walked into the pitch-black restaurant and found not ruined ingredients and burnt-out appliances but a video playing in the dining room—one that had his face superimposed onto a creepy David Lynch character who appeared to be talking to him. It was greater still when the lights came up and there, shouting “Surprise!” with all their hearts, was a dining room filled with 65 invited guests, and 29 of the world’s most acclaimed chefs.

“That is going to the best surprise party ever,” said René Redzepi, one of the participating chefs, as the minutes before Dufresne’s arrival ticked down. He turned out to be right: despite complicated logistics worthy of a minor military invasion and dozens sworn to secrecy, the guest of honor had absolutely no idea it was coming. But another, more profound surprise lay in store. For the 17 chefs who flew in on their own dime—Redzepi of Denmark’s Noma, Rodolfo Guzmán of Chile’s Boragó, Ana Ros of Slovenia’s Hisa Franko, Ben Shewry of Melbourne’s Attica, Blaine Wetzel of Washington State’s Willows Inn—as well as the local chefs like David Chang, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Daniel Boulud, the dinner was turned out to be that rarest of opportunities. One more in ever-evolving series of feasts known as Gelinaz, it turned out to be a precious chance to reconnect with the reasons that drew them to cooking in the first place.

As chefs have become more than just cooks—they are seen now as celebrities, as corporate businesspeople, as artists, even as public intellectuals—the demands upon them have increased. Most of them manage more than one restaurant, or at least regularly entertain offers from international investors eager to have them open one (or more) in Los Angeles or Beijing. They run labs and test kitchens designed to supply them with a never-ending source of new ideas. They churn out cookbooks tracing their trajectories, and publish Op-Eds denouncing misbegotten areas of food policy. To promote their restaurants, they maintain a steady presence on Twitter and Instagram, and star in serious-minded documentaries about their work. And they regularly travel the world, giving talks and participating in gatherings designed for them to share ideas with their peers. It’s a long way from the days when chefs simply had to please diners with delicious food and a well-run dining room.

Gelinaz dinners before (the name is partly inspired by the chef who, along with food writer and bon vivant Andrea Petrini, co-founded it, Fulvio Pierangelini), were never intended to be part of the chef rat race. In fact, they were designed for just the opposite: by bringing together a number of chefs to riff on a single, signature recipe, they would, it was hoped, spark creativity and friendships. At a gathering in June 2013 in Ghent, Belgium 23 chefs interpreted a 19th-century recipe for a chicken-and-aspic timbale; that fall they went to Lima to riff on an octopus dish by Gastón Acurio. A ticket to each cost around $700—a price that was intended to offset the cost of flying all these chefs in from around the world and paying for their ingredients.

Dufresne with Gelinaz co-founder Andrea Patrini. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz

Although most diners at those two Gelinazes were happy with the experience, the chefs were not. They found it limiting to focus on just one recipe didn’t like the pressure to perform that such an expensive price tag brings, and they were uncomfortable with the fact that, because the remaining costs were picked up by local sponsors, they had to spend chunks of their time together showing up at tourism or corporate events and talking to the press. The essential experience had been lost, and when a third meal was planned for New York, they staged a minor rebellion, and Petrini was forced to cancel the public Gelinaz he had planned for April.

But that’s when the chefs stepped in to change it. Instead of a single recipe, they would riff on three of them. They would avoid the obligations of perfection that paying guests imposed by making it by invitation only—two guests per chef. “It’s not right for guests to pay because we’re doing this in order to play,” said Pierangelini. “If we want to play, we should pay for our own toys.” They would cut back on the need for sponsors, and thus retain more control of their time, by paying for their plane tickets and the two Brooklyn apartments where they would all share rooms themselves (early plans to bar sponsors altogether failed when the chefs learned the cost of renting WD-50 for the night). And although they all admire Petrini, they would do all this not just because he asked, but for a purpose. They would do it to honor Wylie, a chef they adore for his talent and humility.

After Dufresne recovered from the shock (always prepared, chef Ana Ros, commented, “The two people I invited are doctors—just in case he has a heart attack.”), the dinner began with Dufresne’s own cooks preparing the standard versions of three signature WD-50 dishes: Cold Fried Chicken, Shrimp Noodles, and Scrambled Egg Ravioli. Those dishes may sound standard on paper, but they are anything but. Known for his highly imaginative, modernist approach to cooking, Dufresne serves the chicken, for example, with a cube of buttermilk ricotta and a sprinkling of caviar.

Wylvie Dufresne as The Colonel. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz

“That’s the challenge,” said Patterson referring to the task of reinventing Dufresne’s creative recipes, “how do you outmodern Wylie?” The first group of chefs to serve, including Chang, Noma’s Rosio Sánchez, and Empellón’s Alex Stupak, didn’t try: they put down crowd-pleasing buckets—with Dufresne’s face where the Colonel’s would go—of fried chicken and biscuits, accompanied by big tins of caviar. But succeeding courses were creative indeed: Redzepi and Ben Shewry eschewed the chunk of protein that the chicken dish requires for a fermented chicken broth, that the served with hand-ground grits, their corn flavor heightened with fermented corn juice. In Patterson’s group, which included Alex Atala, Claude Bosi, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Kondo Takahiko, each contributed a single ravioli—same casing, different filling—to a dish meant to represent the ways that immigrants influence host cultures. And in one of the star dishes of the evening , Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson, and France’s Agata Felluga, served a small heap of noodles swirled with baby scallion and topped with an intense shrimp paste atop a frankly gorgeous ice plate.

But all the excitement in the dining room didn’t match the energy in the kitchen. The out-of-town chefs had arrived on Sunday night. Holed up in two Brooklyn apartments, they ate their dinners in private to avoid be recognized in public, and did their early prep work at restaurants—their staff sworn to secrecy—scattered throughout the city. By the time the chefs convened at Wd-50’s kitchen early Monday afternoon, the buzz was palpable. Negotiating for limited counter space, and working from complex charts that determined which team could have which stovetop during what exact period of time., they began their real collaboration.

Redzepi and Shewry’s had spent the entire day before trying to perfect their dish and still weren’t happy with it. “We want it to be good not just for the diners but because we’re doing it for Wylie,” Redzepi said as he tossed out the umpteenth iteration of the dish. Patterson stepped into help things along by squeezing a shot of Srichacha into the broth. Wetzel and Martínez couldn’t figure out the proper plating for their dish until someone suggested the serve the clams on a separate piece of slate. Those who weren’t busy stepped into the plate the dishes of those who were, and the kitchen became so crowded with chefs that the waiters, bearing precarious trays of used glassware, had to fight their way through to the dishwasher. Observing it all, Shewry could only marvel. “Imagine if someone did all this for you,” he said. “It would be the highlight of your career.”

Redzepi and Shewry’s fermented chicken broth. Derrick Belcham/Matthieu Buchsenschutz

As the pace began to pick up, Dave Chang stepped into expedite, then later turned over the reins to Daniel Boulud, who ran the pass with an efficiency—a steady stream of instructions punctuated with a French-accented go go go—that awed the others. They marveled again as the four-starred Boulud, working with his existential opposite, Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, plated their dish, the evening’s final: an exquisite mashup of French and Chinese that paired a creamy shrimp sabayon that looked like a breakfast bun with a demitasse of soup based on XO sauce into which the diner was expected to blow two straws whose content contained shrimp “noodle.” “It’s like a very nice uptown French restaurant came downtown and got beat up by a Chinese restaurant,” Boulud said as he presented the dish.

When it was all over sometime toward midnight, Wylie sat on the pass in the kitchen, and though overwhelmed with emotion, managed to get out a few words of thanks to his friends and colleagues. Applauding raucously, Redzepi turned to Shewry. “It’s so easy to forget, but this is why we do it,” he said. “How lucky are we that we get to make a person happy?”

Watch: The Chefs Talk Prep and Cooking Ahead of the Surprise

(Video credit: Fine Dining Lovers)






TIME norway

This Is How to Honor 69 Innocent People Murdered by a Terrorist

'Memory Wound' is the winning design by Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg that will memorialize the 69 people killed at a Utøya youth camp by Anders Behring Breivik in 2011, the most hideous massacre in Norway's modern history

As anyone who has ever run a finger along the list of endless names engraved onto that black wall in Washington, DC or stood in New York on a September 11 and watched those two columns of light beam down to where the twin towers once stood knows, the best memorials have the power to both wound and heal. That’s a lesson that Norway has clearly taken to heart. The stunning design it has selected to commemorate the 69 people that extremist Anders Behring Breivik gunned down while they were on retreat on the island of Utøya, will quite literally incise a deep wound into the landscape.

In an international competition to design the memorial that drew over 300 entries from 45 countries, Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s submission won the judges’ unanimous support. It’s easy to see why. Dahlberg’s design will physically cut away the landmass on the Sørbråtan peninsula across from Utøya, leaving two cleaved halves. The names of the victims will be inscribed on a wall built into the exposed cliff, and although visitors will be able to stand across from the names, the intervening water will keep them from getting close enough touch them. “The void that is created,” wrote the jury in its decision, “evokes the sense of sudden loss combined with the long-term missing and remembrance of those who perished.”

The stone and earth removed from the site will be transferred to Oslo, to become become part of the memorial to the 8 people killed there when, during the same day’s attack, Breivik set off bombs in two government buildings. That site will also include trees and plants taken from Sørbråtan as reminders that even after so terrible an interruption, as Dahlberg wrote in his proposal, “everyday life must carry on.”

The original version of this story misspelled the Swedish artist’s name. It is Dahlberg, not Dahl.

TIME Denmark

Giraffe-Killing Danes Anger Jews and Muslims With New Animal Cruelty Law

People look at the carcass of the giraffe Marius after it was killed in Copenhagen Zoo
People look at the carcass of the giraffe Marius after it was killed in Copenhagen Zoo, Feb. 9, 2014. Kasper Palsno—Scanpix/Reuters

A new Danish law ordering that all animals must be stunned before slaughter effectively bans production of kosher and halal meat

They may kill giraffes in Denmark, but they anesthetize them first. And as of February 24, the same goes for any animal killed for meat in the kingdom. Thanks to a new law that went into effect this week and that seeks to reduce the pain that livestock suffer on their way to becoming dinner, all animals slaughtered in Denmark must be stunned before being killed. The government says the legislation is founded on a concern for animal welfare. But Muslim and Jewish groups, who note that it effectively bans the production of kosher and halal meat on Danish soil, wonder if there are darker motives behind it.

The European Union, like the United States, requires that cows, sheep, and pigs be stunned before slaughter, but makes an exception for ritual slaughter. That was Denmark’s policy as well until last summer, when the agriculture minister at the time, Karen Haekerrup, proposed that the exception be lifted. The measure was approved by parliament on February 18, and went into effect six days later. A few days earlier, the current agriculture minister, Dan Jørgensen, explained the decision to Danish television. “There has to be a balance between religious issues and animal rights,” Jørgensen said. “We are not forbidding ritual slaughter, but it should be conducted by (first) stunning the animal.”

Yet most—though not all—Jews and Muslims believe that their traditions prohibit pre-stunning. Under dhabiha and shechita, (as ritual slaughter under the dietary laws of halal and kashrut, respectively, is known), Islam and Judaism require animals intended for human consumption to be killed with a single slash through the carotid artery in the neck. The practice is intended in part to assure that animals die with as little pain as possible (that is why, for example, both religions specify that the blade used must be sharp and perfectly smooth).

In fact, no animals have actually been ritually slaughtered in Denmark in a decade, and Jews and Muslims in Denmark are accustomed to getting their kosher and halal meat from abroad. That fact, say some, makes the legislation all the more questionable. “From the Jewish point of view, there are no practical effects to this law,” says Finn Schwarz, president of the Jewish Community of Denmark. “So you have to wonder why regulate something that is not happening?”

Benyones Essabar, chairman of the organization Danish Halal, has questions too. He notes that the proposal emerged in the wake of a controversy last summer provoked by the discovery that a Copenhagen hospital was, out of deference to Muslims, serving halal meat to all its patients regardless of their religion. And he points out that Danish Muslims have been actively trying in the past few years to find both farmers and a slaughterhouse that could supply the community locally. “While we are working on it,” he says, “The government has closed the only door.” Like Schwarz, he points out that in other critical areas of animal welfare such as hunting, pig production (Denmark is one of the biggest producers of pork in Europe) and mink farming (ditto), the government has taken no action.

The Danish government is at pains to point out that the new legislation does not, in fact, ban halal and kashrut, since those products are still available for purchase within the kingdom. But given the questions about timing of targets, it’s little wonder that Jews and Muslims outside of Denmark have found an explanation for the ruling that has nothing to do with animal welfare: prejudice. Eli Ben Dahan, Israel’s deputy minister of Religious Affairs responded to the measure by saying “European anti-Semitism reveals its true face,” and called on the Danish ambassador to Israel to prevent the law’s implementation. Noting that Denmark was also home to the Mohammed cartoon scandal, the Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News reports that many in the Middle East are calling for a boycott of Danish products.

It doesn’t help that Sweden and Norway, the two nations that also require pre-stunning, passed their legislation in the 1930s—just like Germany and Italy did. (The Allies eventually reversed the measure in the latter two countries.)

Yet neither Schwarz nor Essabar, whose organization collected nearly 20,000 signatures protesting the new law, believe that anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic sentiments are the true motive for the reform. Rather, they point to a rejection of religion in general. “Denmark is a very secular country,” says Schwarz, “and arguing anything from a religious point of view is counterproductive. So the government knows this is an easy way to show they’re protecting animal welfare. It’s like [they’re giving out] free beer.”

Free beer or not, an ever-increasing number of incidents in Denmark and throughout Europe—from hate crimes to proposed legislation limiting the number of Muslim immigrants to uproars over whether kindergartens should be required to serve pork — have contributed to the sense that neither religious group is “really” Danish. “We are Danes born in Denmark,” says Essabar. “But every time something like this happens, we are marginalized more.”

The marginalization probably isn’t over either. For all the controversy provoked by the pre-stunning law, a bigger storm is gathering over another religious practice shared by Muslims and Jews: circumcision. In December, the Danish Medical Association called on the government to ensure that boys were allowed to decide for themselves whether to have the operation and the Jyllands-Posten newspaper called for an outright ban on the practice of circumcising at birth. Another major newspaper, BT, conducted a survey that found that 87% of Danes supported such a ban.

Even Essabar, who believes that Danes are genuinely tolerant, is beginning to wonder about the impression his country is creating. “We slaughtered a giraffe in a zoo. Our military shoots pigs for practice. So do we really care so much about animal welfare? Something is not as it should be.”

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