Magnus Nilsson is a very busy man. His day job involves running one of the world’s most sought after destination dining restaurants, Fäviken. He has been featured in television series like Chef’s Table and the Mind of a Chef but that’s not all. He has also written what some would consider to be the bible of Nordic cuisine called the Nordic Cookbook. It has taken him around all of Scandinavia, meeting people, researching old recipes and taking over 8,000 photographs during the three years it took him to work on the cookbook.
He did all this in his free time writing over 700 recipes in the process. Some might wonder how he manages to do all this in a world where time seems to be so precious but as Magnus tells Food and Wine Gazette, “for me, it is important to do a lot of different things because like that you do not get tired of doing just one thing. It is a way to keep feeling motivated really,” he said when I caught up with him during the GELINAZ! DOES UPPER AUSTRIA.
As one of the most talented chefs in the world today he has become a bit of a cult figure not only among chefs but also foodies who consider travelling to his restaurant a bit like going on a pilgrimage.
He is also very curious and patient and when we tour the Heim.Art Station in Neufelden he was busy asking the art curator all about the exhibits. Joachim Eckl was worried that the visit was taking too long but Nilsson took his time absorbing the art and asking all sorts of questions. He’s got the curiosity of a writer but that also stands to reason because he was also exhibiting his works in the United States entitled “Nordic: A photographic essay of landscapes, food and people” in Chicago from June to September.
Magnus goes around with his camera ready to take photos of the landscape, the food and the people. In a world where everyone feels rushed and busy, Magnus manages to carve time for his hobbies but has also made them into something more than just hobbies. “Today I think that I have found the right balance between cooking which is my professsion and writing and photography.” So what are his goals? “I want to continue to do interesting and high quality things,” he said.
He is known for his perfection and his insistence of quality and he said that’s also where inspiration comes from. “I like to experience different things and that’s a very integral part of the creative process,” he said.
Few people will get a chance to eat at his restaurant. The restaurant has only has 24 covers and to get there you need to drive to Jarpen, located around 750 kilometres north of Stockholm. Saying it is in the middle of nowhere would be an understatement. Speak about destination dining. Here you will need to first get a reservation and then plan your trip accordingly. But he is convinced in what he is doing. “People today want experiences. This is definitely the future,” he said.
A few chefs I have spoken to at Neufelden seem to think that tasting menus in cities are coming under pressure. “I don’t think that is necessarily the case. The problem is that too many people are doing it. There are restaurants which are doing it where there should not be any tasting menus. Of course, these will naturally disappear over time. But I think a lot of restaurants are doing tasting menus very well so I don’t think we will see tasting menus disappear,” he said.
Because of his busy schedule and also because sometimes it is best to say no, he has become very discerning when it comes to choosing the events he visits. But when it comes to GELINAZ! he is one of those chefs who loves to participate whenever he’s asked. “You always know that they are going to be special. They are always nice, fund and entertaining. You always learn something and it is one of the nice events to do,” he says.
He worked together with Brazilian chef Manu Buffara and Konstantin Filippou and it seemed like a match made in heaven. They woke up early to prepare venison the Brazilian way and as Magnus told me “it went really well and we had a great time.”
The Swedish chef is very much in touch with nature given the location of his restaurant and he is noticing the effects of climate change. “I’ve seen the winters getting shorter, there is less snow. How this is going to impact food, I don’t know but that is definitely not a good thing,” he said.
That is indeed not a good thing particularly spoken from a chef who has been forced to listen and observe nature and try and work with and around the seasons.