When the World’s Top Restaurant Serves Up a Bug

The headline was too good to resist. When Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that for the past three years has held the top spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, was discovered to have suffered a norovirus outbreak, the media response—both mainstream and social– was vast, immediate, and nearly gleeful. “Poisoning at ‘World’s Best Restaurant,’” reported France’s Le Point. “World’s Best Restaurant Hit by Vomiting Bug,” said Huffington Post.  “Restaurant Leaves Bad Taste with Guests,” giggled The Financial Times.

Norovirus is a global epidemic, an easily transmissible disease that is rarely fatal, but that causes millions of cases of severe gastroenteritis each year. Yet what mattered in this case was not the virus’s ubiquity but its particularity: it had struck the restaurant that, at the moment, is perhaps the most acclaimed in the world, a restaurant that—not incidentally—is expensive, hard to get into, and known for its unusual, innovative cuisine. As a result, its much-heralded chef René Rezepi—who was among TIME’s 100 Most Influential people in the world in 2012–got a quick, brutal lesson in the flipside of being a media darling.

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