On November 2016, René Redzepi dropped the news that Tulum in Mexico’s Quintana Roo would be the location for his third ever Noma pop-up. The $600 tickets sold out in a matter of three hours when they went on sale. We were lucky to score a ticket and experience the unique immersive pop-up not just from a diner’s perspective, but also behind the scenes where the REAL magic happens. We are beyond thrilled to take you behind the scenes in our “Tales from Tulum” series, as we interview a few of the Noma Chefs and team members that made Noma Tulum happen.
Katherine Bont starting working in the kitchen when she was 16 years old in her native Australia. Her curiosity and interests of hospitality later evolved to the front of the house, working in the Caribbean and Japan. Looking for a change of scenery, she replied to a tweet from René Redzepi and six weeks later she moved her life to Copenhagen.
From her experience in Tulum, MX to her hospitality philosophy, Katherine Bont let’s us into how the Noma experience evolves yet keeps consistent.
| Tulum, MX
How did your past experience in the kitchen helped your success in the FOH?
I started working in the kitchen just after my 16th birthday. Food and cooking, is something I have always been passionate about. While working in the kitchen for 5+ years, and also in a bakery for some time, my interest just grew for the operations of not just the restaurant, but for the entire hospitality experience. I feel that having an understanding of the kitchen and what is involved behind the scenes really gives me a whole new appreciation and respect for so many other things.
You joined the Noma team nearly six years ago. How was it that you joined the Noma team?
I was living in Japan. I came to Denmark for a week to meet the team at Noma after responding to a tweet from Rene, and a few emails exchanged.
| Katherine Bont at the entrance of the Noma Tulum pop-up
Noma is known for its unparalleled guest experiences from food, but also for the exceptional service. How has this evolved over the years at Noma and how does it keep evolving?
The service at Noma is something that captured me from the day I walked in, nearly 6 years ago. The genuine hospitality and looking after people (not just after the guests, but also staff and the team) is something that Noma has harnessed in its 14 years of being open, and I feel that keeps growing and evolving, especially with all of the travels.
The team spending time in places like Tokyo, Sydney and Tulum and being able to take away all of those experiences and opportunities; relaying them back into this energy; and delivering that as genuine hospitality and service is truly incredible.
How was service at Noma Tulum different from past Noma pop-ups and regular service at Noma Copenhagen?
Noma Tulum took our team of nearly 100 people and together we created a magical restaurant in the jungle. Outside. No roof. Running around in sandals, in the sand with 140 guests a night, 23 tables and turning over half of these. Dealing with weather conditions, bugs. It was truly unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. I think moving forward it gives us all a complete new appreciation for absolutely everything!
| Green Palm Plates used for service at Noma Tulum
What were some aspects for the Noma team that were very important that the guests experienced from the moment they arrived to when they left?
I think it’s this feeling of looking after people, taking care of them. From the moment they enter our home, they should feel at ease. Feel comfortable, and be guided through the experience.
What’s next for you and the Noma team?
Since returning from Mexico, a big part of the team has been doing another pop up here in Copenhagen under the bridge. Cooking communal dinners for 120+ guests a night. It still has a certain soul and feeling about it, but in a much more relaxed way. It’s exactly like the team from Noma are throwing a dinner party, under a bridge outside every night of the week. There’s loud music, guests pour each other wine and food is served on large plates to share. This has been a wonderful way to keep the team together during this time before we get ready to open the new Noma.
Another part of the team has been travelling on various research trips. Then, of course the main focus in the immediate future will be full attention on the new Noma restaurant, set to open in the new year.
| Family meal preparation at Noma Tulum
What are you the most excited about in the next few years involving your career?
I honestly feel blessed each and every day to be a part of such an incredible team. The experiences that I have had since joining the Noma team have been truly unbelievable. It’s a constant journey, that has inspired me and helped me grow in ways I could have never imagined. I am just so happy to be on this adventure, and wake up every day open to those new experiences and opportunities. Wouldn’t dream of having it any other way.