a photo of Jamtland, the region in Sweden where Magnus Nilsson has his restaurant

Magnus Nilsson — Homeland. Chef’s Table, V.1 E.6

by | Chef's Table Guide, Series At The Stern | 0 comments

The last episode featured New Zealand-born chef Ben Shewry and his quest to balance his career with family life. This episode features Magnus Nilsson, who looks like a Viking. He runs Fäviken, a restaurant based around the natural, seasonal cycles of Scandinavia. This episode was a fascinating way to close out Volume 1.

Magnus attended culinary school in Åre, Sweden before departing for Paris, where he worked for a few weeks at the acclaimed French restaurant Arpège before being fired. He then found a position at L’Astrance under Pascal Barbot. 

A RETURN HOME

After several years at L’Astrance, Magnus returned home and quickly became disillusioned with cooking when he realized he didn’t have his own style — he was simply creating worse representations of the French cuisine he’d been surrounded by for the past three years. He gave up cooking, intending to quit forever.

As he puts it, he makes many life decisions spontaneously, and at this time in his life he had decided that he was done with his restaurant and done with cooking. 

Then a friend invited him to help out as a sommelier at Fäviken. Magnus convinced himself to take the position, since his wife Tove was pregnant with their first child. What he’d intended as a temporary role at Fäviken became a permanent one, and before he knew it he was head chef.

At Fäviken, Magnus rediscovered his passion for cooking. It was fun again. Through experimentation, he created new and stunning dishes incorporating traditional Swedish preserved ingredients.

Above: Several dishes created by Magnus Nilsson at his Jämtland restaurant Fäviken.

One of the most integral parts of the operation of Fäviken is the root cellar.

This was also one of the most fascinating parts of this episode. Magnus shows us the root cellar, where root vegetables like potatoes are kept over winter, and where preserves are kept. Each year, Magnus creates jar after jar of different types of preserves. Depending on the time of the year, he tops his “cottage cheese toast” with a different type of preserve. One of the keys of Fäviken is seasonality.

And Magnus has come around to Swedish ingredients. For one, the scallops are a whole lot fresher — harvested from only 200 kilometers away from Jämtland in central Sweden. He laughs when recalling that in France, they used the same scallops, only they had been shipped thousands of kilometers. 

But as of 2019, Magnus suddenly closed Fäviken. It was another sudden decision like the others he’s made throughout his career. According to him, he woke up one morning and didn’t want to go to work, and that sealed the deal. He admits that it was certainly not the best decision from a business standpoint — but he’s looking for his next calling now. 

If you’re interested in reading more about Magnus Nilsson and his restaurant and why he decided to close it, read this article from the L.A. Times

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