A Canadian chef is taking over the kitchen at Denmark's acclaimed Noma restaurant, an eatery that foodies consider among the world's best.
Ben Ing, 30, of Ottawa says it's an "honour" to be vaulted to the head chef position at Rene Redzepi's establishment, which has two Michelin stars and earned the No. 1 spot on the The World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
"It just makes me a little more proud, even more proud than I was to be Canadian before, and to be representing Canada," Ing said late Tuesday from Copenhagen.
"It's going to be challenging for my career, which is great because you don't want to stay stagnant. You don't want to get too comfortable ... you definitely want to move on and experience new things and continue the education."
Though he's known about the promotion since last summer, word just emerged about the chef shuffle at Noma, with Ing replacing Daniel Giusti, who is returning to the U.S. to work on a company dedicated to improving school lunches.
Even after almost two years at the restaurant, Ing says he still has plenty to learn from the "intense" Redzepi, whose gastronomic mecca is known for its remarkable 20-course meals.
Ing admits to feeling awe when he met Redzepi.
"But once you get to know him he's just part of the team," said Ing, adding the owner puts in a full day, from eating breakfast with staff to mentoring interns and being on top of the test kitchen and service.
"He shows that work ethic and he shows that passion — he shows that during service where he wants everything to be perfect in the guest experience and he's tweaking the menus mid-service — that really shows you that his mind is going 24-7 and that he really wants this thing to be perfect, the whole team, the goal towards a great experience for the guests."
Before Ing's meteoric rise in the chef world, he worked as a bus boy and dishwasher while playing hockey for the Ottawa Jr. Senators.
Scott Warrick, co-ordinator of the culinary program at Algonquin College where Ing took the two-year culinary management course, said the new Noma head chef was always an outstanding student and talented athlete, with a panache for plate presentation.
"We're just proud as punch that he got the job.... To show that with hard work and dedication you can rise to the top of the industry is a wonderful testament to Ben's many abilities."
When Noma closes after the New Year's Eve service, Ing will be in charge of a pop-up Noma for 10 weeks in Sydney, Australia, starting on Jan. 26. Staff will return to Copenhagen to re-open Noma at the beginning of May until New Year's Eve 2016.
Then Noma will close and move to a new site, complete with an urban farm, with Ing in charge.
Ing, who worked in Ottawa and New York before joining Redzepi's team in 2014, was looking forward to returning home on Saturday to visit family — and perhaps take in some hockey — before flying to Sydney on Jan. 10.
Matt Duffy, sous chef at Cafe Boulud at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, had a three-month internship at Noma in 2009 and saw first hand how demanding the work is there.
"So many international people eat in that restaurant that it's great to see a Canadian guy there," said Duffy, 33, from his hometown of Hanover, Ont.
"I think whatever he's done to get where he is and have that connection with Rene, he's obviously extremely talented, I think one of the more talented chefs that you'll see come out of this country."
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Lois Abraham, The Canadian Press