There is no denying that two of the world’s most-traveled and in-demand chefs of the moment — chefs celebrated from Melbourne to New York to Tokyo — are Magnus Nilsson and Sean Brock. Nilsson, a 28-year-old Swede with a sweep of blonde hair and death metal good looks, is the chef-owner of 14-seat Fäviken Magasinet — located on a hunting estate 750 km north of Stockholm. He’s sort of at the center of this Scandinavian hunter-gather thing (read: a slightly more badass breed of foraging) that has exploded over the past year. He’s know for personally killing much of the animal protein served in his exclusive little country restaurant (34th on the world’s top 50 list).
Nilsson, bookish like all the Swedes, just wrote a cookbook/tribute to the restaurant with such esoteric ingredient requirements, it makes the Modernist Cuisine look like Rachael Ray’s guide to Sunday Suppers. One dish requires: “A tiny slice of top blade from a retired dairy cow, dry aged for 9 months, crispy reindeer lichen, fermented green gooseberries, fennel salt.”
Enter Sean Brock, the Charleston chef we’ve justifiably spilled a lot of ink over. See his Thanksgiving interview, PBR vinegar recipe and his thoughts on new-Nordic cuisine. Brock, who recently announced his expansion to Nashville and that he’s looking at space in New York City, likes to take products pulled from the “Southern terroir” and apply cutting edge technique. Think sassafras-glazed pork ribs with pickled peaches and rabbit-pimento loaf.
So it was quite a culinary tour de force when the two paired up recently at Brock’s restaurant McGrady’s. The Charleston City Paper was on the scene with a sharp recap of the action. “We’ve been hunting alligators,” Nilsson told the crowd before serving local dishes like swamp grits with lemon and clam juice. Brock returned serve with a dry-aged duck breast with orange persimmon and a side of Anson Mills Brewster oats.
Writer Robert Moss continues:
“For the evening, the McCrady’s team cleaned out the fireplace and lit it for the first time in over a century, filling the entire restaurant with the stunning aroma of spruce, forest, and smoke. In Sweden, Nilsson cooks scallops over burning juniper branches. In Charleston he cooked Capers Inlet oysters over hickory with embers of red bay.”
Most certainly this was one of the guest chef dinners of the year. The Merriweather Post Pavilion of 2012.