8 Creativity Lessons I Learned from Magnus Nilsson - Chef's Table
Magnus Nilsson (Head chef of two Michelin stars Fäviken restaurant in Järpen Sweden and No. 41 in the 2016 World’s Best 50 Restaurants.)
The road to success is often a lonely one. Chef Magnus Nilsson's Faviken restaurant is among the most isolated restaurants on the planet.
Here are the eight lessons I learned from Chef Nilsson's story:
1. Creativity is originality. Creative people possess a rebellious attitude because of a need to do things no one else does. Rules restrict their artistic nature and they feel pressured when there are boundaries they have to consider.
Backstory: Lotta Aspholm, Magnus's cooking school instructor, recalled the time when Magnus was attending her cooking school, "He was an inventor. He wanted to try out spices -- sweet when it was supposed to be salty, and sour when it was supposed to be sweet. There is no limit at all. We told him, 'Magnus, Wait! Wait a bit! Are you sure about that?' and he would insist to give it a try."
"When he was given boring, traditional recipes, when you cannot change them because the recipe says like this. He didn't like that at all, because it was choking him and you could see it. It was choking him." She further commented, "The people who went to school with him, they say, 'I would never have thought that he should go all the way to make a place like Fäviken. How come he succeed on the other side of the mountain? What is he doing so well that we don't do? What does he know that we don't know?' The thing is, they read cookbooks, but Magnus, he doesn't read cookbooks. He creates."
2. There's no way around it: mastering creativity takes time.
Backstory: Magnus shares his view on creativity, "Anyone can learn to duplicate a technique, but that's not creative expression. What's interesting is true development. It is not something that happens over, a couple weeks or a year. But to me, it gives the base for true creativity."
3. Creative minds tend to see difficulties as interesting challenges that stimulate their artistic thoughts.
Backstory: "The biggest part of Magnus is he got put in the middle of nowhere. It's flat, it's trees, it's water and it's on the way to nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere, you cook food more or less like it was always done. However, he is discovering all these things that people did for the previous 150,000 years as though it's new and it's now. Nobody else is doing it." Bill Buford who worked as a writer at The New Yorker, talks about the harsh environment where Magnus resides.
4. Creative people inherently yearn for greatness -- making a meaningful contribution in whatever they do.
Backstory: "When I started the cooking school, the dream was to have the greatest restaurant on the planet. How to achieve that was something that I thought a lot about." Magnus commented. "We are all here for a certain amount of time, and we are going to have to do something. And to me, I always thought that it seems really stupid to do things if they are not good."
5. Creativity can come from anywhere.
Backstory: "Faviken is built on things that would never work for any other restaurant. Depending on where you live in the world, you are flying up to Trondheim, Norway, and then you are renting a car, and you have to check your GPS, and you have to drive through little Norwegian fjords, and then you find this fairy tale world of this giant, sprawling Swedish hunting lodge and farm with nothing else happening, except this 12-seat restaurant. There's a sense that you've stumbled on this ancient Nordic hideaway. A version of that, that's been translated through Magnus' imagination and obsession, and passions." said Adam Sachs, Editor-in-chief Saveur.
"At Faviken, we don't have to relate to anything that we don't want. Because it's just us here. Just this little universe. It's kind of limitless, you know?" Magnus says earnestly.
6. Creative people often notice small details. They are good at observing other people and their surroundings. They have a keen eye and all this is typical for them, because they draw inspiration from all that is around them.
Backstory: "I notice everything that happens in the kitchen. I notice every little single details because I was there to develop them." said Magnus.
7. Incredibly creative minds invariably seek out new experiences. They are open to doing and seeing new things, because they know that within these new experiences is the inspiration and perspective they need to create their best work.
Backstory: " It is a long process to create true understanding of produce and technique." Magnus said. "And most chefs do not even think about that as the chef's job. That's not very constructive. It's actually very lazy. " He continued to say, "I think for any restaurant like this, it is very important to not just accept things the way they are, but for things that you are intrigued by or interested in, that you actually go and investigate. "What's there?" and "Why?" If it doesn’t make sense, how can it be transformed to become something greater?" "It was really exciting when you hit that moment where you realize that you're onto something, when you realize that there is knowledge that's just lying there in the open, it's just that no one is using it."
8. Great creative minds understand the power of collaboration, and they aren’t afraid to tap into it.
Backstory: Magnus discusses how most restaurants normally have less-trained staff doing all the menial tasks, such as peeling potatoes and carrots, etc., while the more experienced chefs end up plating the food. He argues that this way of doing things holds no accountability. Instead, he has his trainees on the pass with someone who announces and controls everything while the chefs are in the back actually cooking until it is time to plate the dishes. This way, everyone is expected to carry out their best from the beginning.
“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ” ~ Pablo Picasso