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A longtime dishwasher just became part owner of one of the world's best restaurants

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A Gambian immigrant who spent the last 13-plus years working as a dishwasher was recently named one of three new partners at Noma. 

Noma is a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, run by chef Rene Redzepi. 

Redzepi announced in a Facebook status Monday that  62-year-old dishwasher, Ali Sonko, along with Noma's service director Lau Richter and manager James Spreadbury, now own a 10 percent stake in the company. 

“I feel a special connection to Ali because my own father is called Ali and was a dishwasher for most of his life,” Redzepi told the New York Times in a phone interview. “He has spent every hour of his life at that restaurant, works hard and hardly takes a day off. He is a great example of an immigrant done good.”

Sonko immigrated to Denmark in the 1980s after falling in love with a Danish woman during vacation. The couple now has 12 children, according to Traveler.

His story has quickly become a symbol of immigration success.

For Sonko, it seems he is equally happy to be working at what's considered one of the world's best restaurants. 

“I cannot describe how happy I am to work here,” he told the Danish website BT in 2012. “These are the best people to work with and I am good friends with everyone."


Sonko made headlines several years ago when the Noma team went to accept their first of four World's Best Restaurant awards, but he was unable to attend because of visa complications.

The Noma team brought Sonko with them in spirit by wearing T-shirts with his face on the front. 

Two years later he was able to join the team to accept their second World's Best Restaurant award. 

Noma is expected to relocate in December and when it does, Sonko will likely be spending more time with restaurant guests, Redzepi told The Washington Post.

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