Immigrant Dishwasher Becomes Part-Owner of René Redzepi’s Noma

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Climb every mountain.

Noma

Virgin Australia’s CEO John Borghetti got his start in the mailroom at Qantas. Ron Meyer, the current President and COO of Universal Pictures, began his career also sorting letters at the William Morris Agency. Now, a dishwasher from Gambia is proving the worth of hard work and positivity by becoming part-owner of Noma, the Copenhagen eatery frequently touted as the ‘best restaurant in the world’.

During a temporary closure of the restaurant that will see it reopen as an ‘urban farm’, co-owner and head chef René Redzepi took to Instagram to announce not only the projected December rebirth, but also that the team, which now also consists of managers Lau Richter and James Spreadbury, will include 62-year-old Ali Sonko, the in-house dishwasher.

“Ali is the heart and soul of Noma,” René told friends as they gathered to celebrate the restaurant last weekend. “I don’t think people appreciate what it means to have a person like Ali in the house. He is all smiles, no matter how his 12 children fare.”

noma announcement

Ali, a former farmer in his native Gambia, who is also a father to a dozen children, has been working at Noma since it opened its doors in 2003. Although visa issues prevented him from travelling to London in 2010 and accepting a ‘best restaurant’ award with his team, he was honoured by his colleagues nonetheless – they sported T-shirts with his face as they accepted the award in front of the international community.

“I cannot describe how happy I am to work here,” he says of his job. “These are the best people to work with, and I’m good friends with everyone. They exhibit enormous respect for me, and no matter what I say or ask about, they are there for me. And that’s enough for me to say that it’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

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