Q&A: Chef Magnus Nilsson

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01 October 2011

Chef Magnus Nilsson’s restaurant may be in an old barn in the middle of nowhere but his innovative menus and ingredients are drawing intrepid foodaphiles from around the globe.

Move over Denmark. The diminutive nation’s Volvo-driving, Nudie-denim-wearing neighbours from the north have stormed the kitchen and are giving the likes of Noma’s René Redzepi and Fiskebaren’s Martin Bentzen a run for their kroner. At the forefront of this push is 27-year-old chef Magnus Nilsson who runs Fäviken, a tiny, 12-seat restaurant housed in a former barn in the mountainous wilds of northern Sweden, close to the Norwegian border. An exponent of seasonal, locally sourced produce, Nilsson works only with ingredients that have been hunted/gathered from nearby or grown in the restaurant’s garden. Named one of Europe’s top 10 young chefs in 2010, Nilsson visited Australia this month to take part in the World Chef Showcase during the 2011 Crave Sydney International Food Festival. As a taster, Qantas The Australian Way asked the chef for the lowdown on his high-altitude life.

You trained with Alain Passard, among others, in Paris. How did you end up at Fäviken?
I came here as a sommelier and worked in the wine cellar, then the owner asked if I’d like to [take on] the restaurant, which had been around since 1986, and I realised the potential of the place. When I started in 2008, it was just me, cooking and waiting. Then we employed a waiter and opened up the dining room to include four extra seats.

That’s a total of 12 seats. Why so few?
It’s easier to control things and we can work with top produce and suppliers, something we couldn’t do if we had more diners.


How popular is your restaurant?
We are fully booked for the next few months, but we have to be, otherwise we couldn’t afford to employ our six staff.

Favourite dish on the menu right now?
Mackerel with green juniper and alcoholic vinegar. The mackerel comes from a family we work with in Norway, close to where we are.

How fresh is the food at Fäviken?
When we serve new potato we’ll farm the correct variety, pick them, clean them and serve them 10 minutes later. For us, it’s about finding the perfect product and then making it available in the restaurant at the right moment.

Which other Swedish chefs and/or restaurants should we be on the lookout for?
Fredrik Andersson at Mistral, Magnus Ek at Oaxen Krog, Björn Frantzén and Daniel Lindeberg at Frantzén/Lindeberg and restaurant Mathias Dahlgren, all of them in, or near, Stockholm.

If I were a member of ABBA, I would be… Benny Andersson, because we share the same taste in haircuts.

Chef Magnus Nilsson appears as part of the 2011 Crave Sydney International Food Festival, October 1-31. cravesydney.com

Source Qantas The Australian Way October 2011

Tony Magnusson

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