Simon Kelner: One man's 'elitist nonsense' is another man's lunch

Kelner's view

Share
Related Topics

There may be rows of empty seats at Olympic venues, but there was one which was full to bursting point yesterday. Is cooking an Olympic sport? And if not, why not?

If you can get a gold medal for beach volleyball (as much of a sport as sunbathing or disco dancing), why can't chefs compete against each other, given that theirs is a discipline requiring creativity, hand-eye co-ordination and physical prowess? Were that the case, Rene Redzepi would be the oven-baked favourite to hear the Danish national anthem played as he stood on the podium. Redzepi is recognised as the greatest chef in the world, and, for 10 days over the course of the Olympic Games, he has recreated his Copenhagen restaurant, Noma – voted world No 1 – at Claridges Hotel in London.

Reservations have been as hard to come by as tickets for the 100 metres final and I was among a capacity crowd to bring you a despatch from the frontiers of gastronomy. I am well aware that what I'm about to write may be considered elitist nonsense. It costs £195 a head to sample the delights of Noma which, of course, is an obscene amount in these straitened times. But what is the Olympic Games if not a celebration of the elite; a recognition of true greatness? And a ticket for the 100 metres can cost a lot more than 195 quid and my lunch lasted a good couple of hours rather than 9.58 seconds.

Redzepi, whose cooking is characterised by taking seasonal and local produce and turning it into dishes of visual brilliance and remarkable complexity, began planning for his London venture six months ago when he instructed a farm in Lincolnshire that he wanted them to grow celeriac of exactly 150g each, and a stables in Greater London to advise him on the right sort of hay to serve with his Romney Marsh lamb. The end result was a nine-course meal of such interest and diversity that it made those of us who don't spend our lives foraging wonder whether we are worthy. There are things you don't believe possible – a flowerpot with nasturtiums and edible soil, scones with clotted cream and caviar, and an oyster in buttermilk that tasted like a week by the seaside. And then there are live ants. Or, as the menu would have it, ANTS. A small Kilner jar contained leaves of Savoy cabbage, a small dollop of creme fraiche and a few ants wriggling around. I had been warned, and wondered whether, as someone who doesn't eat meat, I could get an exemption. My friend texted his girlfriend – a vegetarian – and said: "We're just about to eat ants. Wish you were here". But I adopted the spirit of the Bushtucker Trial and got on with it. "Loved the citrus taste of the ants," said Mark Hix, i's resident chef, on a neighbouring table. It was then that I knew this world is too beautiful for me.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice