Monday, January 11, 2016

Being a chef is not about glamour- Chef Magnus

Jimoh Babatunde
Asking him to tell you how he got into the hospitality industry puts a childish smile on his face as he gladly tells you that he was born into it as his parents were both chefs back in their native country of Sweden, “my parents had restaurants in Sweden were I had to do anything from moving the lawn, washing the dishes and peel potatoes to get some extra pocket money from about the age of 12.”
Magnus literally grew up in hotels and restaurants. These early childhood experiences ignited a passion for food in the young Magnus. It was therefore not surprising that like his parents, Magnus developed an uncanny passion for food leading to an early career in the field, he equally saw in the profession an opportunity to be able to travel to different countries of the world.
Not wanting to loss such opportunities, he needed to sharpen his skills before moving out so he enrolled in a college , “after 2 years in collage I got thrown in the deep end of restaurants and was working 16 hours a day to learn as much as I could.
“Most days it was one restaurant in the morning and then another in the evening. Looking back there was no hard times in being screamed at by the senior chefs , its only good, fun memories that built up the old school generation of chefs. It was all though but fun.”
He knew early in life that being a chef is a life style which goes with pressure and he was fully prepared for such life. Magnus said he realized that as a chef one needs to work long hour for low pay for many years as “It’s not the glamour you see on TV.”
So, Magnus started his career early, working his way through some of the top restaurants in Sweden, including training at the word famous “Johanna’s” a Michelin Star Restaurant.
In 1994 Magnus decided to take his career “on the road” and moved to London. Here he worked at the famous “Mogens Tulstrup” and “Sir Terrence Conran” where he focused on honing his ala Carte’ and exclusive catering skills.
Magnus then decided to try his hand at managing his own restaurant in London. Although successful, after five years, he decided it was time for a new chapter in his career and moved to China as the Executive Chef at the Dalian Hotel.
‘This was a very exciting period in my career,” says Magnus, as he recalled his sojourn in China. ‘‘Asian cuisine amazed me both in its complexity but also in its simplicity. It is an experience which remains part of my repertoire.”
Following a successful couple of years in the Far East, Magnus returned to the United Kingdom to work for the famous “Chef Christian Sandefeldt”. He assisted Chef Sandfeldt with several projects, ranging from Chef Sandefeldt’s world famous fine dining restaurants, to the innovative “Gastro Pub” concept. During the three years, Magnus was part of several new openings, under the “Sandfeldt” banner.
At the start of the new the millennium, Magnus decided to follow his heart to Africa. He joins the world famous Irish Chef, Conrad Gallagher, the youngest three Star Michelin Chef in the World, here he assisted Conrad, who was Group Executive Chef for Sun International, the leading Hotel and Casino Operator in South Africa.
Focusing on redesigning the food concept for the group, Magnus’s travels took him across Sub Sahara Africa, from the world famous Sun City, to the Royal Livingstone at the Victoria Falls in Zambia, to one of the top Leading Hotels of the World, the famous Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.
It was from South Africa that Magnus moved to the west region, this time to Nigeria where he pitched tent with the Federal Towers in Victoria Island, Lagos and later to Abuja Sheraton Hotel where he presently entices the people with his delight some culinary skills. “I relish the opportunity to be part of a dynamic management team,’’ says the culinary expert of his Abuja Sheraton Hotel move. ‘
‘Nigeria has always been close to my heart and I think it will be difficult to find more eager to learn and receptive people anywhere in the world than it is here. I think African cuisine is on the verge of joining the main stream cuisines across the world and I am privileged to play my small part in it.”
Asked what his philosophy is when it comes to food, Magnus will tell you he belongs to the school of thoughts that believes the food should speak for itself. “Don’t over complicate. When you have good ingredients let them speak for themselves.”
To him food is all about being together, so anything that is cooked at home with the family is his favourite. So, he tells you happily that his favourite home cooked meal is fried herring with mashed potato and lingonberry. Though not an early morning eater, Magnus' ideal breakfast is coffee.

On a lighter note, asked him what his funniest kitchen incident was, he answered “when we had an outside function for 1000 people in a game reserve 7km from the unit and the rain start and we have to move all food and set up to the unit again and be ready in time for their dinner.”