Chef Francis Mallmann and His Legacy

My very first job in Argentina was working under Francis at Valle de Las Leñas, Mendoza, Argentina in the mid 80’s as his Assistant in charge of all the Food and Beverage operations – some 23 Restaurants around the resort. The years have gone by and we have remained friends and Francis has participated in events created in Mendoza & São Paulo. We have spent some memorable moments together in Acapulco, at home in São Paulo, long and lazy lunches in Garzon. I fondly remember I trip we did driving from Las Leñas to Salta – one long 20hr drive then on to Cafayate – five fantastic days of visiting unique farms and savouring some wonderful meals in this wonderful corner of Argentina. I share this opinion on Francis which nicely gives one a summary of this unique character I am fortunate to call a mate.

“Francis Mallmann never stops reinventing himself and trying new experiences. He has been Argentina´s most famous TV Chef-personality; the co-owner (with Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón) of Mendoza´s 1884 restaurant, the first fine-dining establishment in Mendoza (which opened in 1999); the owner of Patagonia Sur, the grungy La Boca neighborhood´s own five-star restaurant in Buenos Aires and most recently the author of Argentina´s most celebrated cookbook: Seven fires – Grilling the Argentine Way (Artisan, April 2009). But what I love most about Francis is his poetic way of looking at the world. Here is his answer to my question about food and wine pairing: “I accept that pairing exists, but I am against harmony in eating- I would rather have in my mouth two different glorious beast  fighting to convince me that they are the best rather than having the mellow melting of blending perfection that pushes me to a siesta. The edge of uncertainty-like walking on a cliff- that vertigo that invites us to go down and be part of nature”.

An over-six-foot-tall, blond, blue-eyed Argentine of english descent who grew up in patagonia and interned  in famous Parision kitchen at a young age, Francis Mallmann is fiercely pround of Argentina´s traditional cuisine. His book, seven fires, is a celebration of the open-air barbecue, of Argentina´s carnivorous culture, and of the virgin land of patagonia where he grew up. Mallmann has been able to generate an international following for Argentine cuisine that is all abot celebrating it and nothing about globalizing it; he i fearless about highlighting its unusual features (barbecuing a whole cow, say) and adding his own flavorful toches to traditional dishes-cooking empanadas with chunks of filet mignon rather than ground meat, for example.

Francis Mallmann has shown Argentina and the world that Argentine cuisine-our own European-influenced, barbecued-meat-dominated version of Latino America cookery-has a place at every carnivore´s table, kitchen, and outdoor grill. Following is a recipe for a traditional Argentine asado, give to me by Mariano di Paola, Winemaker at Rutini Winery and the designated asador (Person responsible for the weekend asado) among his friends and family. Pay attention to the details, and you will understand the magic of Argentine barbecuing.

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