“Unlike other creative professions, when you cook in a restaurant you don’t get a second chance. You cannot go to customer and say the crab was not very good today so you should come and try it another day,” says 32-year-old chef Magnus Nilsson, chef of Swedish restaurant Fäviken.
The Chef’s Table documentary of this talented Swedish chef is a must watch, as it depicts the story of this creative chef who is cooking in what is probably the most well known remote restaurant in the world.
Listed 25th in the world’s 50 Best restaurants for 2015 announced on 1 June, Fäviken is unique in many ways. Saying that the restaurant is in the middle of nowhere is an understatement. It is located in Järpen, around 750 kilometres north of Stockholm, and Nilsson started cooking there by chance given the fact that he was recruited to oversee the wine cellars as a consultant. This was after he decided to stop cooking on his return to Sweden from France.
The documentary brilliantly portraits this Swedish chef with stunning visuals which make you want to book a trip to this idyllic location.
He explains what makes Fäviken so special. “As a creative person you are always influenced by the experiences you have. You are constantly comparing with similar restaurants and it affects what you do. If you look at the whole restaurant world, many restaurants are tied together in large cities. They are similar. At Fäviken, we do not have to relate to anything we do not want to. It is just us here. It is just a little universe. It kind of limits us.”
The Swedish chef believes that to create a true understanding of produce and technique is a long process. “Most chefs don’t think of this as a chef’s job. But you should not accept things as they are. You need to ask why and you need to see how things can become greater than they are.”
Documentary maker David Gelb creates a stunning portrait of this restaurant which in many ways is unique in the culinary world. There is no question that to have a fine dining restaurant that is successful in the middle of nowhere is next to impossible. Add the fact that for 5 months it is impossible to have fresh produce and you start to question what is seasonal.
The cooking of Nilsson is described as seasonal but he asks “What is seasonal here in February?”. “We have vegetables but they are not fresh. They have been stored, but this adds a layer of complexity thanks to the way we preserve the food. If you want potatoes in March you need to store them, we need to work to defeat the seasons,” he says.
The Swedish chef is currently working on a book on Nordic cuisine. He says that many things are becoming extinct and forgotten. “My job is to keep them alive. I am documenting Nordic cuisine from food in homes, visiting regions from Finland in the East to Greenland in the West and meeting people, searching for recipes,” he said.
Nilsson has an obsession with quality ingredients and creativity. He says anyone can learn to duplicate a technique but that is not creative expression.
He explains how he had left his home town and never thought he would end up living there. “I never thought it was possible to live and do high-end ambitious cooking.”
He did what many other young chefs do, moving out and went to cooking school. From there he went to work in Paris even though he did not speak a word of French. He tried to get into all 3 Michelin and 2 Michelin star restaurants and even 1 star restaurants but could not get a job. He finally landed a job at L’ Astrance thanks to his persistence and stayed there for a few years. “What I learned there was that a dish can never be better than the produce. That is the difference between good and fantastic. You would be surprised at how many chefs cannot see that difference.”
He decided to leave L’Astrance and was set to work in the Champagne region but then the financial crisis hit and the project was put on hold. So instead, he landed a job in Stockholm but he says it was not enjoyable because he did not have access to great produce. “I tried to do my own stuff but many of it was influenced by my time at L’Astrance. As a creative person, it is not nice to feel that you are cooking someone else’s food. It turned me off cooking completely,” he said.
Few people can get to eat at this restaurant, firstly because of its location and also because it is pretty small. It only has 16 covers and a communal table for eight people. Since this year, the restaurant is also closed for five months from February to the end of June.
This documentary is therefore a perfect way to experience Nilsson’s magic from the comfort of your home.