It may seem easy to look at Fäviken, this Michelin-starred and Zagat-top-ten establishment, of which Noma chef René Redzepi has lovingly spoken, with its obscure ingredients and extraordinarily remote location, and classify it as merely another disciple of the so-called New Nordic style of cuisine. But once you start to perk your ears to what is happening up there in the middle-of-nowhere, Sweden, that all seems a bit too simplistic. After all, how does one explain the modern lore surrounding the place? Did the chef, Magnus Nilsson, really cook his first meal at the age of three? And is a summer dinner at Fäviken during the Swedish evening sun really as transformative as they say?
Many of these questions will probably remain forever rooted firmly in the lore they sprang from, but looking at his wildly successful business up there in the woods, you cannot help wondering how they manage. Before any of the TV specials, heaven-high accolades, or the celebrated book deal with Phaidon, Magnus Nilsson was just a young man who wanted to cook and enjoy good food. By the time he became involved at Fäviken, he had already been on a self-guided trajectory for many years to do just that, after he, in a letter to himself as a green youth of fifteen, set the goal of running the best restaurant in the world (he says he still looks at it every so often for inspiration).
Nilsson has run Fäviken since 2008, when the owners Anne-Charlotte and Patrik Brummer first welcomed him to the estate as a sommelier on a three-month contract to develop their private wine cellar. The Brummers acquired the estate, located in Järpen, a remote locality of Jämtland in Sweden, in 2003. After the contract ran out, they asked him to stay for a year to see what he could do to help with their efforts to revitalize the restaurant portion of their hunting and skiing destination, and he obliged. For Nilsson this was a homecoming of sorts – he grew up in Jämtland, but cooking had taken him from Sweden to Paris, and kept him for a few years at three-starred L’Astrance, where he learned what truly great produce looked, smelled and tasted like.