Cooking with Fire: Francis Mallmann in Patagonia

Cooking with Fire: Francis Mallmann in Patagonia

Argentinian Chef Francis Mallmann is enthralled with fire. Whether heating water for coffee on his wood cookstove, or grilling whole flayed lambs over the coals, Mallmann's passion for the flames is his hallmark. Mallmann studied under Michelin starred chefs in France, and later returned to his native Argentina to open restaurants and headline a cooking program called "Fires of the South". 

Mallmann employs 120 people, spread between his restaurants in Buenos Aires, Uruguay, Miami, and now the south of France. His residence of choice? A cabin on a private island only accessible by boat. Drive 100 miles from Bariloche on dirt roads, cross the lake in an inflatable, and you'll find Mallmann and a team of young apprentices, entrenched in a mode of cooking that is at once primitive and dramatic. The Chef, ever so stylish, might be found in tall boots, a shearling jacket and a cowboy hat, with a bandana wrapped around his neck that could convince you to take up the neckerchief. 

He is nothing if not eccentric, and his ideas on cooking with fire reflect his general philosophy in life and in love. Existence should be wild, dramatic, passionate, and uninhibited. It's no surprise then, that Mallmann has fathered six children from a number of relationships.

His passion for Patagonia is reflected in his techniques, drawing from the rich culinary tradition of the region. Whether he's cooking trout from the lake on which he lives, or beef from the Pampa, Mallmann's style is rustic yet refined, inspired both by his training in France's best kitchens and the wild that surrounds the cabin itself. 

It’s a land that you learn to love very slowly. You start to understand it’s winds, the storms, the solitude. And once you understand how she is, you start to love her.
— Frances Mallmann on Patagonia: Quote from his episode on the Netflix series Chef's Table

Mallman's message seems clear. Get out of your chair, and venture out into the wilderness. Having seen and become enthralled with the theatre of fine dining, Mallmann's style in the country seems theatrical in a different way. Friends, food, and wine are valued, almost revered, and the wilderness is seen as a place to reflect on the joys and sorrows of life. Surely, we can all agree on that.