Francis Mallmann — Maestranza. Chef’s Table, V.1 E.3
Let me preface my explanation of this episode with a big forewarning. The subject of today’s episode, Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann (yeah, his family is clearly not Argentinian in origin), rubbed me the wrong way. This has happened before in Chef’s Table, though never, I think, to quite this extent. Something about this man and his general attitude really got to me. But I will try to present this as straightforwardly as humanly possible.
FRANCIS MALLMANN’S BEGINNINGS
Born in Buenos Aires, Francis’s family relocated to remote Patagonia — at the very southern tip of Argentina — for his father’s work. Maybe this is the example Francis was going after when he forcibly relocated his kids to the hill country after deciding his soul wasn’t in his long-time restaurant anymore. Okay, I’ll cut the sarcasm.
Pretty early on, Francis fell in love with a “romantic” lifestyle completely free of obligation and commitment. He moved to France to pursue cooking and found work in various three star restaurants.
Eventually, Francis returned to Patagonia and set up shop cooking fancy French food for rich Argentines. When he had a chance to serve the head of Cartier, the jewelry company, the ostensibly French head told him he wasn’t actually serving French food — that he was doing the wrong thing.
Francis decided the man was right. And he embarked on a quest to begin showcasing Patagonian ingredients and the traditional Patagonian methods of cooking.
You’re probably wondering why this man rubbed me the wrong way. Because it sounds pretty same-old same-old so far. But…
Similarly, to his little daughter Heloisa: “I wish she’d never grow up. I spend 10 days a month with her and her mother, which is wonderful.”
If you were wondering, she’s his sixth child by God knows how many women. I don’t technically have a problem with that sort of behavior, except for how callous he seems about it. It’s not that Francis Mallmann doesn’t care about nature or about his children. It’s that he’s made the conscious decision to prioritize himself and his “dream” above them.
And what does this dream boil down to, really? Just doing everything exactly the way he wants to do it, with utter disregard to the people in his life, to the world, or to humanity.
Below, two pictures of Patagonia. Which is a beautiful place.
Now, Francis Mallmann and I are not as different as you might think…
Sorry about the rant. But I found some of this man’s behavior so heinous — in my eyes, of course, everyone’s entitled to a different opinion — that I couldn’t hold myself back. In the end, all I’m saying is that I, personally, would never want to live in the way he does. At a certain point, when you chase and chase and chase what you see as freedom, it disintegrates before your eyes and becomes fake, because you’ve been searching too hard. Freedom is very important. But it’s not something that’s sought out. It’s something that is, more often than not, stumbled upon in the process of struggle.
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