At Asador, we are inspired by so many chef’s throughout the world, but especially by those who have embraced alternative ways of cooking and brought new ways of thinking around food and cuisine. One chef who we admire greatly here at Asador is the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1956, Mallmann grew up in Patagonia, Argentina with his parents and brothers. It’s not surprising that wood and fire are two items that he’s most famous for cooking with as he grew up in a log house in Patagonia, an area known for its many volcanoes. Mallmann says that his love of all things culinary began at a young age; he used to hitchhike home from school and on these walks he would chew on different grasses and barks that he would find on the side of the road. He discovered the lemony tastes of the grasses and the textures and scents of each bark. His parents would be angry with him coming home from school as he was regularly covered in dirt and soil and his mouth would be stained green from the grasses he ate. Fire was a constant part of his childhood and the log house he lived in, and he still to this day believes that the memories of that home continue to define him.
Mallmann learned to take care of himself at a young age and moved out of his family home at the tender age of thirteen. He emancipated himself from his parents at sixteen years of age and followed his desire for freedom and moved to San Francisco. He dabbled in a number of jobs throughout his late teens before succumbing to his love of food and became a chef. He moved to France at the age of 20 and learned the basics of classic French cuisine from some of the greatest French chefs of the day in some of the top kitchens in the capital, Paris.
He realised that while he was creating some wonderful masterpieces, and being heavily rewarded for it with numerous prestigious awards, something was missing and he wasn’t doing what he deep down desired to do. So he left his work in France and returned to his native Patagonia to follow his own, unique but passionate path.
While chefs around the world are often praised for being creative and forward-thinking leaders in gastronomy, Mallmann has managed to go in the opposite direction and has looked back to the cooking methods of the guachos and even the Indians for his inspiration. Mallmann has left the haute cuisine world behind him and now focuses on a more primal style of cooking which relies on the original methods used by those generations ago. His only cooking requirements are fire, smoke, air, and stone and he can create a masterpiece with just meat, salt and, of course, wine.
Today, Mallmann runs 9 restaurants around the world, mainly in South America but they also extend to France and Miami and he has also opened a number of pop-up restaurants. He has cooked for some of the world’s most famous people and has starred on many television shows including the Netflix series Chef’s Table.
What we love so much about Mallmann is the simplicity of his cooking. All he needs is good meat and salt. He takes away the theatrics used in some restaurants and brings a good meal down to how it should be – well cooked, simple, and enjoyed with good wine and even better company. For a steak dinner Mallmann says all you need is salt, no other marinades are required. Leave the salt overnight in a container with the meat, rub the meat with your hands to ensure it is covered with the salt, and the next day all you need to do is cook it. Simple.
Mallmann is the author of a number of books, including “Seven Fires” which refers to the seven types of grilling techniques that are used with a flame – the Parilla, Chapa, Infiernillo, Horno de Barro, Rescoldo, Caldero, and our favourite – the Asador.
Mallmann is a firm favourite of ours here at Asador. His knowledge of different cooking methods and the creations he makes with meat and fire are fascinating and truly inspirational. He reminds us that we don’t need to make a meal a theatrical experience with numerous courses, a well prepared and delicately cooked meal is always best enjoyed with a fine glass of wine and good company.