ThoughtfulThursday – Michelin Star Ranked Restaurant Dishwasher Promoted to…Partner?

Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark

Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to ThoughtfulThursday at the Center of Gravity Blog! It’s time for a break from the constant negativity swirling around us, and I believe I have just the anecdote to do that.

Today I want to discuss a truly inspiring story I stumbled across in my morning browsing. The concept of going ” from the mailroom to the boardroom” is what was thought to be a uniquely American ambition. That is, the ability to start at the bottom of the ladder and advance all the way to the top via a merit- based system or recognition & reward. This, to me, is the quintessential American dream. Such a trajectory was recently realized when the 2 Michelin Star Ranked restaurant Noma declared they were promoting their long time dishwasher to a partner position in the business. 

The restaurant, which is based in Copenhagen, has been voted best restaurant in the world three times in a row by Restaurant Magazine and is know for its exquisite and unique dishes that challenge and invigorate the palate. The owner/chef RenĂ© Redzepi is a mastermind of the kitchen, and decided his long time dishwasher Ali Sonko had earned his stripes after a long tenure of dedicated service. He immigrated from Gambia and has 12 children that all rely upon him. 

At 62, Ali has been in Copenhagen at the direction of RenĂ© since he immigrated in 2003. Despite coming from an impoverished area with little to his name, he grinded everyday and persevered to obtain the full trust and confidence of the owner and staff. He has become a household name not only at the restaurant, but the entire local community. 

It is my sincerest hope that we as a country can continue to build up and inspire people in a similar fashion as Ali. His drive and grit pushed him through a time and situation that would’ve broken many others in a similar set of circumstances. It also speaks as a testament that hard work and loyalty can still take you anywhere in this world, regardless of your country of origin, beliefs, and ethnicity. Truly inspiring.

Bravo Ali, and best of luck in your new role as partner !