The news of Noma’s closing was a shock.
This is one of the most influential restaurants of our generation. This is a place of insane attention to detail, absurd levels of the forward-thinking mentality we all strive for, at a level most can only dream of.
I started thinking about how restaurants like Noma are formed and how the leaders of those restaurants evolve into the magic they produce. But even chefs of that magnitude rely on the most basic and essential cooking methods, techniques and understanding.
Restaurants today do whatever they can to remain relevant—and they should. Finding and being in front of a new wave in the industry can set you apart. The club industry’s not impervious to this. Many of our members pass dozens of restaurants that are all fighting for relevance on their way to our club.
It’s clear now that restaurants of Noma’s caliber are falling away because the industry is shifting.
Trends are cyclical, and retro is cool again. Considering the ebbs and flows of our industry, I foresee restaurants reverting to classic or old-school dishes—the backbone of what most of us were trained in.
Of course, club chefs must always keep in mind that we aren’t cooking for ourselves or our tastes; we’re cooking for our members. And every club has its own identity with varying wants, needs and expectations. It’s up to us, as forward-thinking chefs, to make these determinations.
At the Camargo Club, the culinary team meets regularly to discuss upcoming menus—what’s working and what isn’t. We revisit conversations we’ve had with members while touching tables, and we form an overall sense of how we’re doing and where we might need to pivot. After testing the waters and determining where we can push the envelope, it’s become clear that a large population of our members have an affinity for the classics—or would at least be interested in interpretations of them.
Examples include an elevated coq au vin (see recipe), featuring amish chicken ballotine, sous vide carrots and onions, house-cured bacon and poulet chicharrones, or the French dessert oeufs à la neige (see recipe), with variations of meringue, cardamom-scented anglaise and compressed berries. In 2023, our members will come to see these types of recipes—both recreations of classical straight-forward dishes, as well as interpretations of these concepts.
Granted, while we at the Camargo Club are tapping into the old-school theme, this simply won’t work for everyone. But if this wave fits your club’s model, fully embrace it.