Luxetarian Fruit Leather Beetle

Fruit leather beetle from Noma in Copenhagen, constructed by Namrata Hegde, perhaps, as photographed by Ditte Isager, via the New York Times

The print headline for Julia Moskin’s extraordinary article on Copenhagen restaurant Noma’s abusive unpaid intern system and the announcement it will close in 2024 is, “‘Unsustainable’ Best Restaurant Will Grill Its Last Reindeer Heart.”

Namrata Hegde, 26, had just graduated from culinary school in Hyderabad, India, when she was chosen as an intern in 2017. Knowing nothing about Noma except that many called it the best restaurant in the world, she flew to Copenhagen to live and work at her own expense for three months.

For most of that time, Ms. Hegde said, her sole job was to produce fruit-leather beetles, starting with a thick jam of black fruit and silicone stencils with insect parts carved out. Another intern taught her how to spread the jam evenly, monitor the drying process, then use tweezers to assemble the head, thorax, abdomen and wings. Ms. Hegde repeated the process until she had 120 perfect specimens; each diner was served a single beetle in a wooden box.

Ms. Hegde said she was required to work in silence by the junior chefs she assisted (Mr. Redzepi was rarely in the kitchen where she worked), and was specifically forbidden to laugh.

The article says Noma began paying its interns in October 2022, which feels well within the time frame in which Moskin would have been reporting.

“Everything luxetarian is built on somebody’s back; somebody has to pay,” said Finnish chef and former [paid] Noma employee Kim Mikkola. Whether it’s fine dining, diamonds, ballet, or other “elite pursuits,” the key to luxetarianism is that abuse is built right in.