A Gambian national, Ali Sonko, has been made a co-owner of the four-time winner of the world’s best restaurant.
Sonko, 62, is now a partner at Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant where he has been working since it opened.
Mr Sonko, from the Gambia, was unveiled as one of three new partners, alongside two of its managers.
The two-Michelin starred restaurant closed its doors after 14 years at the current location, and will reopen in December as an “urban farm”.
“Ali is the heart and soul of Noma,” chef Rene Redzepi explained to friends gathered to celebrate the restaurant at the weekend, according to Danish newspaper Berlingske.
“I don’t think people appreciate what it means to have a person like Ali in the house. He is all smiles, no matter how his 12 children fare.
“And, by the way, my own father was also named Ali, and he too worked as a dishwasher when he came to Denmark.”
Posting a picture of Mr Sonko and fellow new co-owners restaurant managers Lau Richter and James Spreadbury to Instagram, Mr Redzepi added: “This is only the beginning, as we plan to surprise several more of our staff with a piece of the walls that they have chosen to work so hard within.”
Mr Sonko, who has lived in Denmark for 34 years, first rose to prominence in 2010, when he was unable, due to visa issues, to go to London with the team to pick up their first Best Restaurant in the World award.
But the team did not forget him: instead, they all wore T-shirts with the dishwasher’s face on it and two years later – the visa issues sorted out – Mr Sonko gave the acceptance speech as Noma was once again named the World’s Best Restaurant.
At the time, Mr Sonko, a farmer in the Gambia before his arrival in Copenhagen, described it as the “best job” he had ever had to Danish website BT.
“I cannot describe how happy I am to work here,” he said. “These are the best people to work with, and I’m good friends with everyone. They exhibit enormous respect for me, and no matter what I say or ask about, they are there for me. And that’s enough for me to say that it’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
Noma, which made its name with its locally sourced, Nordic food, has been named Best Restaurant in the World in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best a further three times.