Southwest Detroit chef invited to join prestigious Noma team during Mexico residency

Southwest Detroit chef invited to join prestigious Noma team during Mexico residency
Chef George Azar, the guy behind the weekend-only Flowers of Vietnam eatery in southwest Detroit, has been invited to cook at one of the most hotly-anticipated culinary events of 2017.

In an exclusive interview with Metro Times, Azar tells us he's been tapped to join the team behind acclaimed Danish chef René Redzepi of the renowned Noma, who plans to open an extended culinary residency in the Mexican resort town of Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula.

Tickets for the seven-week-long pop-up dinner series went for $600 ($750 when you factor in tax and tip) and quickly sold out when they went on sale earlier this month. Noma, the iconic Copenhagen restaurant that is said to be closing its doors  by the end of the year, put out a call for interns and has already attracted hundreds of applicants.

We've yet to hear official word from Noma organizers detailing their staffing plans, but are told that Azar would be joining a kitchen crew that includes members of Noma's European team, as well as a few locals in Mexico.

"I can't believe I'm doing this again, it's like what the fuck, it's very brutal, but it means that I'm about to go work with one of the most high profile dinner services of our time," Azar tells us, referring to his many travels to hone his culinary skills. "It's kind of bizarre to me, but also beautiful."

Bizarre could be one way to put it, though no less intriguing.

Redzepi is among a growing number of chefs who've taken an interest in Mexican cuisine as of late. Though such a phenomenon, some argue, could be considered another example of cultural appropriation, Redzepi appears to take steps to respect the culture he's so eager to study, by offering scholarships to Mexican culinary students to travel to his hometown and intern at Noma at Hija de Sanchez (the Copenhagen taco truck headed by Rosio Sanchez, Redzepi's former pastry chef, who was raised in Chicago to Mexican immigrant parents).

As for Azar's interest in the project, one can point, in part, to his upbringing in southwest Detroit, where he was heavily influenced by the multitudes of cultures that collide in the neighborhood. He tells us his intention is not so much to try to replicate "abuelita's" (grandma's) cooking, but rather to take the opportunity to learn the "Noma way" (he'll also use the time while he's gone for construction at Flowers, which is supposed to undergo a dramatic redesign).
Asked if his participation nudges at the possibility that he may delve into a Mexican-inspired concept next, he hinted he has some things in the works.

As more details emerge about Noma and Azar's involvement, we'll be sure to keep you updated.
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