Magnus Nilsson's Momentous Moments: The day he held his first child
Though the chef had never given a thought to the work/life balance. It turns out that was a great idea.
Magnus Nilsson’s new book, Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End, is truly remarkable. The book details a complete list of dishes served at Fäviken in chronological order, and describes not only how a great many of them are cooked, but also how he and his team developed these remarkable creations.
However, the book goes beyond the usual scope of the average cookbook or chef’s monograph. Instead in it, Magnus actually describes how he turned a remote Swedish hunting lodge into one of the world’s most highly praised restaurants, and in the process, developed from a little-known culinary professional into a chef of international renown.
What’s all the more remarkable is that Nilsson did all this while raising a young family. As he writes in his new book, “I often get asked how I have possibly done what I have professionally at the comparatively tender age of 35 while simultaneously putting four kids into the world and at least seemingly raising them to be decent people.”
Those of us struggling with the work/life balance might hoping for a little insight from this incredibly successful, and incredibly modest Swede. Unfortunately not much is forthcoming. “The truth is that I don’t really know, and while Fäviken was open I never considered that it was possible to live any other way than we did."
And when did Nilsson realise that he really knew nothing? The moment his first child came into the world. “When Arne was born, it was the first time I had held an infant, and generally speaking I didn’t even really like kids in person even though I liked the idea of them a lot,” he writes.
Nilsson learnt to get along with his progeny, and his professional commitments, partly not over-thinking things too much. That’s not to say the early days weren’t tough. “Every time I woke up at 7:30 a.m., when I should have been up at 6:30 a.m. to get the kids ready, Tove having already left for work early and myself having left work too late to be rested; every time I tiredly stepped on a piece of Lego while changing a diaper in the morning and simultaneously shouting (for the third time) at some slow-starter kid who inherited my passion for sleeping in; every time I was late for service driving a kid to swimming practice 100km east while realizing that another kid needed to be at a Scout meeting 50km in the opposite direction; all those times and the others where the logistics of things just stacked up and it seemed as if it wouldn’t all come together this time, I always thought to myself that others have done this before us, many times, so how could this possibly be problematic for us,” he writes.
“People with more kids than us have fled from war zones, have become single parents, have lost their jobs or gotten sick. Compared to that, what is the slight complexity of our school drop-off and pick-up schedule?”
The couple both worked, and didn’t really take to nannies or other types of home help, so the early years were quite laborious. Nevertheless, Nilsson thinks his way of muddling through beats the more professionalized approach, which sees many wait for some perceived, ideal point to start a family.
“Now when I am in my mid-thirties I hear so many people around me who are looking for the perfect moment to have kids, the perfect circumstances and the perfect plan for life,” he writes. “I believe that you can make as many plans as you wish (I am, myself, a great overplanner and Tove is a great underplanner) but very few of them pan out the way you thought. The things that decide if you are going to successfully have a whole bunch of kids and a career at the same time – and enjoy it too – are much less about planning and much more about being able to make as much as you can with whatever life throws your way every day.”
To see just what Nilsson did with the other stuff that life threw his way over the past eleven years, order a copy of Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End here.