For over a decade, long before Netflix’s Chef Table made him even more popular, Argentinian chef, dandy and raconteur, Francis Mallmann had been on my bucket list of people to meet before I kick the mortal coil. It was not for any particular reason other than just meeting, chatting, and simply enjoying their magnificence.
Earlier this year, I got a chance to interview Nitin Sawhney, whose music has been the soundtrack to my life as an immigrant. And this memorial day weekend, I got to meet Mallmann in a private ceremony. There he was — in chef’s whites, trying hard to hide a colorful check shirt. Wearing Gucci slides, a Montblanc pen in his pocket, vintage sunglasses covering his mischievous eyes, and his blue linen hat, he looked youthful. I didn’t get to chat much, though we did share a moment about Paul Simon’s music and the divinity of fire. We discussed my newsboy hat. I might have remarked about the joys of writing with a fountain pen.
There was some talk about cooking in the pits (and tandoors,) but mostly, it was Mallmann doing what he does — cooking on an open fire and turning the simplest of foods into the theater, a spectacle, and an evening to remember. I don’t eat red meat or the sweet stuff, but I did enjoy the fish, warm after being taken out after baking in salt on an open fire. And I certainly appreciated the vegetable medley.
“My life has been a path at the edge of uncertainty. Today, I think we educate kids to be successful in the comfortable chair. You have your job. You have your little car. You have a place to sleep, and the dreams are dead. You don’t grow on a secure path. All of us should conquer something in life, and it needs a lot of work, and it needs a lot of risk. In order to grow and to improve, you have to be there a bit at the edge of uncertainty.”Chef Francis Mallmann, in the Netflix show, Chef’s Table
Thinking back on the evening, I would have much preferred to visit Mallmann on his island — at the edge of the planet, perhaps in deep Patagonia winter, and talked to him about this journey. I would love to talk about love, restlessness, and the importance of melancholy. And most importantly, the idea of living with uncertainty.
Recommended Reading: Is Francis Mallmann the most interesting chef in the world? asks Esquire.
May 31, 2021, San Francisco
These photos were made with Leica SL2-S and Leica M f2/50mm Summicron APO Lens. All images are B&W jpeg right out of the camera, adjusted for brightness.