Mister Ali

Papers across the globe picked up the sensational story of the dishwasher to become business partner of one of the best restaurants in the world. At the closing party of Noma, Chef Rene Redzepi announced that Ali – the Gambian dishwasher at his restaurant for the last 13 years – will be one of the new partners for Noma 2.0. He states that people don’t realise what it means to have a man like Ali in the team –  I agree.

As you may have already noticed, I work for Noma now. So, I wanted to share my very personal impressions of what Ali means to me and the team at Noma:

Yes – we call him affectionately Mister Ali and the pot wash is simply Ali’s Office. When Ali comes in for work every morning, he goes around with his generous smile and greets everyone with a big hug. When we see him coming around the corner, we would call his name euphorically. Some might sing a song or start dancing and he would join in (‘We like to move it, move it’ is a quite popular one). Mister Ali has this special connection with everyone, that little joke that makes your day just a bit brighter. When he is here, we are ready to kick off for lunch service.

If we need plates, cutlery or anything else during service, Ali will fix it. He seems to know everything. He is at Noma since the very beginning and understands more than almost anyone else. If I come to the back with an urgent (and mostly very annoying) request– his answer is always ‘I will fix it right now’. Once the service slows down and we are getting ready for dinner, the conversation in the back turns to guessing what’s for today’s family meal. Ali does not like chicken or polenta, so I always like to tease him that there will be polenta for staff dinner.

Besides joking around, we also talk about more serious stuff. In his breaks, Mister Ali spends a lot of time on the phone. Many times it must be one of his 12 children that need something from their dad. But he also follows news on recent political events of his home country Gambia with concern. And with him, many of us have followed the political developments the last months. After dinner break, he would give us the latest news, explain the situation with patience and share his hopes. We were watching Gambia from Mister Ali’s office in Copenhagen. And we will continue to do so from our temporal home in Mexico.

Ali will be on the same flight to Mexico than me and so there will be plenty of time to get to know him better. I can’t wait to see his smile again. Do you think, they serve polenta on planes?

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