On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Jeff Gordinier talks about his experience following René Redzepi, chef of Noma, for his book Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All With the Greatest Chef in the World. Gordinier, food and drinks editor of Esquire magazine, documents Redzepi as he closes his world-famous restaurant Noma and instead opens local pop-ups in Australia and Mexico. “He gets these ideas of altering his menus through these adventures, this creative process,” says Gordinier. “He’s someone who is just restlessly seeking transformation. He’s always changing the menu, looking for new inspiration; he’s hungry for change.”
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“I’ve never seen somebody get so excited by a mango,” says Gordinier. Over four years traveling with Redzepi, Gordinier explored the jungle of the Yucatán peninsula, Sydney coast, Arctic Circle, and more to collect local ingredients behind the chef’s innovative menus. “When he sees the local fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, meats… you see why he’s such a great chef. The respect for produce that extends to a love for the ingredients: he starts swooning, making sounds—it’s intoxicating to see someone trembling in delight at life,” says Gordinier.
That delight for life helped Gordinier personally, after experiencing changes including divorce that made him feel stuck at home and at work. Yet, Gordinier notes that Redzepi also faced personal challenges over the course of the journey, led by restless perfectionism. “The purpose of the book to me was to humanize him. You see him fall apart and have a nervous breakdown in Mexico and he loses funding for Noma,” says Gordinier. “I thought that by inserting myself in a human way, we could actually dismantle that rock-star, chef idealization and look at him as a person.”
Hailed for his ability to write about, and evoke, complex culinary scents and flavors, Gordinier notes that as a food writer, it was his job to include these more unconventional times in Hungry. And even when stories or experiences aren’t inherently political, food writers have an obligation to integrate personal stories with political stories to call attention to change in the food system. “You’re more conscious about these currents, the need for diversity and inclusion, it is absolutely crucial to do your job right as a food writer,” says Gordinier.