Francis Mallmann, widely acknowledged as Argentina’s top chef, is credited with bringing southern Argentina’s traditional wood-fired cuisine of grilled meats to the world. “I think I have developed a particular language that allows me to communicate beyond taste,” said the French-trained Mallmann, who has been perfecting the country’s art of outdoor cooking over the past 40 years.
One reason for his success: Mallmann believes cooking is about more than satisfying the stomach — it’s also an aesthetic language that conveys the essence of his country. “It’s a way of life very related to dreams, the impossible,” he told AQ.
His unique cooking methods were recently featured in an episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table. Apart from cooking with a traditional grill, he uses a plancha (a cast iron griddle), wooden and iron crosses, hot stones, or just ashes. He also developed what he calls “dome cooking,” a technique that involves hanging whole rib eyes, chickens or fish, as well as fruits and vegetables, from wires above a fire for hours.
Mallmann regularly spreads the gospel (and techniques) of Patagonian grilling culture at gastronomic events around the world, but diners can also sample the real thing at one of his six restaurants spanning Mendoza to Miami.
At 61, he has no plans to slow down. This year, Mallmann opens two new restaurants: one in Viña Montes, in the region of Colchagua, Chile, in March; and another in Château La Coste winery, in Aix-en-Provence, France, in April. He is also working on new books. His next goals: directing a film and having his seventh child.
Martínez de Hoz is an associate at AS/COA. She is from Argentina.