Ali Sonko, 62, has worked as a dishwasher at the two-Michelin-star restaurant since it opened in 2003 and has been described as the “heart and soul” of the Copenhagen joint. He moved to Denmark in the Eighties after emigrating from Gambia, where he worked as a farmer.
“I cannot describe how happy I am to work here,” Sonko told the Danish website BT. “These are the best people to work with and I am good friends with everyone. They show enormous respect towards me and no matter what I say or ask them, they are there for me.”
In a Facebook post, the chef who runs Noma, René Redzepi, said it was “one of the happiest moments of my time at Noma” to announce that Ali – along with two restaurant managers, Lau Richter and James Spreadbury – was to become one of his new business partners.
The announcement came as staff held a closing party in Copenhagen to commemorate the restaurant’s last day at its waterfront location in Christianshavn.
Noma will temporarily move to Tulum in Mexico this summer before reopening at another location in the Danish capital later this year.
The restaurant has been crowned the world’s best eatery four times by Restaurant magazine. It has also topped the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants list three times.
Sonko first rose to prominence in 2010, when visa issues prevented him from travelling to London with his colleagues to pick up Noma’s first Best Restaurant in the World award.
Paying tribute to their popular pot washer, the staff who could attend the gala all wore T-shirts with Sonko’s face on it. Two years later, visa issues addressed, Sonko gave the acceptance speech as Noma was once again crowned the World’s Best Restaurant.