The celebrity chef Francis Mallmann welcomes an illustrious number of guests - on his private island in Patagonia, which is remote even by Patagonian standards, and lets them in on the secrets of his special philosophy of grilling. Premier class. Unforgettable.
On a secret island in Patagonia, you'll find the world's most distant cooking school - the romantic escape of popular South American chef Francis Mallmann, a meat-smoking nomad who quotes poetry and has grilled for David Beckham and the King of Spain.
He cooked for the Ritchies at a fall party at their Wiltshire home. There were tables covered in grass and an orgy of fat chickens, dripping beef ribs, and whole pineapples and cabbages hung from an incredible igloo structure and arranged over a circle of flames. Mallmann is the most popular chef in South America and has seven restaurants across the continent, including his now famous rural retreat in Garzón, Uruguay.
He moved from José Ignacio, the former fishing village where he opened Los Negros, to a tiny, dusty village. A tiny restaurant that eventually drew a downright devoted group of Hollywood actors, models, and celebrities. He recently opened a restaurant at the prestigious Hotel La Faena in Miami and this summer at Paddy McKillen's remarkable Villa La Coste in southern France.
La Isla is probably one of the most remote places in the world. The journey to Lago La Plata is long and bumpy. Feeling like you're on a pilgrimage to a foodie mecca to meet some kind of God, you pray that reality doesn't disappoint. No it does not.
A camouflage-gray boat flutters towards you in the middle of the lake. Mallmann at the helm, his blue eyes sparkling and swinging three freshly caught trout. Poseidon in a poncho. Mallmann came to Lago La Plata for the first time 30 years ago “We camped in tents on the shore of the lake on the beach. I had the most beautiful girlfriend back then, and every night she washed her hair in a stream. My children Alexia and Francisco were probably three and five years old and we had two weeks of sun, fishing, eating, drinking and fun ”.
Do you know Ezra Pound's incredible poem “In a Subway Station”? It was a very long poem, and he worked for many years to make it shorter and shorter, and it ended up becoming just two sentences ... that's elegance. The three bright bedrooms in La Soplada are cluttered with thick duvets and there are tubs and bath sheets suitable for a giant. The entrance hall is teeming with hats, axes and fishing rods. The kitchen has an impressive collection of handcrafted Astier de Villatte porcelain, as well as a simple bowl of lemons. ("I have lemons in all of my restaurants, it's a symbol of joy for me," says Mallmann.)
“I like contradictions. I want the food and wine in my mouth to fight to see who is better. "
Mallmann was born in Buenos Aires and grew up in Bariloche, where his father, a physicist, headed the Balseiro Institute's atomic research center. He left school and home at the age of 13. “I had a difficult relationship with my parents,” he says. “It was the hippie movement, a renaissance moment for all young people in the world, and it was very strong within me. My father looked at me in my pink pants, Liberty blouse shirts, high heeled boots, and long hair. 'He didn't understand. And at 13 it was impossible for me to explain. The teenager Mallmann worked as a DJ at a Patagonia nightclub and slept in a small room above. At 16, he moved to the music scene in California, where he did odd jobs as a carpenter, pest controller, and gardener before opening his first restaurant at the age of 18. He later moved to Paris, where he worked his way up in three Michelin-starred kitchens before moving to Argentina, where he became known for his classic French dishes. Then, when he was 40, he suddenly realized it was time for a change, he says. He began to remember the fires of his childhood. They were so big in him. And then he started to find his own voice, a kind of stream of consciousness with fire.
“I try to teach my guests not only how to cook, but also the spirit of fire,” he says. He cooked for the King of Spain, the Dutch royal family and some presidents. Today Mallmann works with a team of seven, including three “gypsy cooks”, as he calls them, as well as a butler, a forest worker and an engineer. They follow their leader like Myrmidons. It is precisely this combination of delicious food and staging that has raised him from a chef to a culinary rock star. Mallmann is a man full of creativity, generosity, confidence and fallibility, worn by the lightness of one of his linen nightgowns.