Last week, Magnus Nilsson revealed he was closing Fäviken. The chef had taken an old hunting lodge in the remote reaches of Sweden and turned it into one of the world’s ultimate dining destinations, serving 30-course meals to a tiny group each night. His fame grew even more as he appeared on a season of the Anthony Bourdain and David Chang-produced series Mind of a Chef and the first season of Netflix’s breakthrough hit Chef’s Table.
Despite the fame, accolades and two Michelin stars, Nilsson revealed the motivation to keep his 28-seat fine dining restaurant going had left him. But before the he told the world his surprising plans, we sat down recently and he explained the part of the dining experience he thought was changing for the worse.
With the rise of the World’s 50 Best and the spread of Michelin, restaurants have become a competitive sport. And not just for chefs. There are diners traversing the globe to eat at places merely to add notches to their belts. Magnus was less than impressed.
Have you noticed the rise of diners who care more about saying they’ve eaten somewhere than actually eating there?
Yeah, it terrifies me. I think it’s sad. The only reason you should want to go to a restaurant is to have a good time.
What are they doing instead?
I see people who are so obsessed with documenting the experience and then don’t have the experience at all. It’s such a silly thing to do to go to a restaurant just to post a picture on social media.
Then there are the restaurants that exist to get you to Instagram their food, like with Black Tap and their shakes. You know, the ones with an entire cake and a pie sticking out of it. Here, come gawk at my diabetes in a mug.
That’s super sad.
I’m old now, so I don’t really go to concerts anymore, but the last one I did I saw numerous people holding their phones aloft the whole time, watching the show on a tiny screen, even though an actual concert was happening right in front of them.
I was at this party a little while ago. It was here in the U.S. and there was a very prestigious crowd there. Lots of very famous people. Lots of musical artists and you know stuff like that. And John Legend was there. And he played three songs on the piano in the room. And I sat next, very, very close, and I enjoyed this moment because I’m not really a John Legend fan, but it’s a beautiful moment. I mean, how often do you have an artist of that caliber playing the piano and singing a couple meters away?
And then I turned around, and I looked. And looking back, it was like a wall of cellphones. It was exactly what you were saying. Everyone was having the experience through their cell phone. And I just thought it was so sad because most likely they’re never going to have that experience again in their life, because it’s very circumstantial that it’s happening there and then. Most likely, they’re never going to come close to listening to an artist like that singing without microphone, playing the piano in a room. But none of them are having the experience. I don’t think that they’re even listening, you know?
Why do you think it’s happening?
There’s an obsession with telling others what you do. If it gets worse, then one day I will just stop cooking because it won’t be rewarding anymore.
You’ll just stop?
The only reason why anyone should work in hospitality the way that I do, in these types of restaurants, is because you really love the act of giving hospitality to people and seeing how they interact with it, how they enjoy it and how it affects them. If that aspect is no longer there, no one is going to want to do it anymore and it’s going to disappear. We’re just going to be filled with restaurants who cater only to that crowd.