Ali Sonko, an immigrant from the Gambia, will become a partner in Noma — one of the world’s top restaurants — when it reopens in December, chef and co-founder Rene Redzepi announced this week.
“It gives me incredible joy to let the world know that our restaurant managers Lau and James, and our dishwasher, Ali, have become partners in NOMA,” Redzepi said Tuesday on Instagram.
Sonko, 62, has been working as a dishwasher at the restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, for more than a decade.
Partners in a business typically receive a share of its profits. A spokesperson for the restaurant — which has two Michelin stars — declined to disclose the financial terms of Sonko’s partnership.
Redzepi described the dishwasher as the “the heart and soul of Noma” when announcing the news to staff, according to Danish newspaper Berlingske.
“I don’t think people appreciate what it means to have a person like Ali in the house,” Redzepi said. “He is all smiles.”
Redzepi opened Noma in 2003 after working in the kitchens of famous restaurants elBulli and The French Laundry.
The acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant captured the “World’s Best Restaurant” title for three consecutive years between 2010 and 2012, and then again in 2014.
Sonko was not able to travel to the 2010 award ceremony, reportedly because he couldn’t get a visa. The restaurant’s team accepted their prize while wearing t-shirts with Sonko’s face printed on them.
When the restaurant won the prize again in 2012, Sonko was in attendance.
Noma specializes in Nordic cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant closed its doors last month, but will reopen at a new location with a new menu.
A video posted by Redzepi on Instagram shows Sonko removing a letter from the restaurant’s sign.
What an awesome gesture!
New partners: As we close the doors to the old noma, we also push towards the next rendition. We are almost positive we will open the doors to our new space at the end of this year. But, most importantly, we are here to tell you that noma in its new edition will have a handful of new partners. It gives me incredible joy to let the world know that our restaurant managers Lau and James, and our dishwasher, Ali, have become partners in noma. This is only the beginning, as we plan to surprise several more of our staff with a piece of the walls that they have chosen to work so hard within. This move is one of the happiest moments of my time at noma – best wishes René Redzepi