Internationally acclaimed Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson is a leading authority on Nordic culinary culture, and a friend of the American Swedish Institute who has been here for a number of visits (both in person, and virtually).
Nilsoon's Fäviken book is an exclusive insight into one of the world's most interesting restaurants: Fäviken Magasinet in Sweden. Magnus Nilson was head chef at Fäviken from 2008-2019, which led to the restaurant being named one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the Zagat guide in 2013. In 2019 Nilsson closed Fäviken at the height of its success to move on to other projects, which included becoming the director of the MAD Academy at Rene Redzepi's (of NOMA) MAD foundation.
Fäviken weaves together narrative texts, photographs and recipes that explain head chef Magnus Nilsson's remarkable approach to sourcing and cooking with ingredients that are farmed and hunted in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, and how he creates a seasonal cycle of menus based on them. The book illustrates how Nilsson ran the restaurant with the same ethos as the farm that the restaurant building once housed. The small team of chefs harvested and preserved all the food for the restaurant by hand using the most natural methods possible. They rejected the popular contemporary cooking equipment such as low-temperature water baths and liquid nitrogen in favour of simple cooking methods of grilling and roasting over open coals, relying on the chefs' innate skills and knowledge of the product to get the perfect result. This approach resulted in the highly creative food they served in the restaurant, the pure, intense flavours of which, far from seeming traditional, were remarkable.
The restaurant was near Järpen, 600km north of Stockholm, in a remote part of the country, an area popular with cross-country skiers. The restaurant was located on a traditional Swedish farm and served only 12 people each evening. The menu was the same for all the guests, and each dish was served to all the guests at the same time, introduced by Magnus himself. The dishes sometimes involved the use of traditional implements such as a nineteenth-century ice-cream churn or an old sourdough bread basket, which was also used for proving the dough.
Even though not everyone was able to visit Fäviken, Nilsson's approach to working with ingredients in the most natural, intuitive way possible, and making the most of each season, is an inspiration to all cooks and food-lovers to think differently about the ingredients that are available to them. Many of the basic recipes for yogurt, bread, porridge, vinegar, pickles and preserves are simple and straightforward enough for anyone to attempt at home, and the advice on natural preservation methods can be followed by anyone.