Have you considered that maybe open-fire-cooking icon Francis Mallmann lives a better life than you, a straight male consumer of food and its related media? That he sleeps with more women, makes better tasting meat, wears cooler clothes, and ages more rakishly? Of course you have! You watched Chef’s Table!
But in case you, a man, needed to be reminded of Mallmann’s superiority, do check out this profile that dropped today from Esquire which finds the magazine’s food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier venturing out to Mallmann’s private island in Patagonia to learn and eat with the master of the flames. It’s epic.
Here now, the best quotes and moments:
This headline: “IS FRANCIS MALLMANN THE MOST INTERESTING CHEF IN THE WORLD?”
This note on, uh, weather conditions en route to Mallmann’s private island: “When you get out of the truck to take a whiz, the wind that whips around you is strong enough to feel like a shove.”
Mallmann, on watching movies with chef April Bloomfield: “When April was here, we did an extensive course in film — every night we did two films.”
On ~lady~ chefs, and acknowledging who “us” really is: “Mallmann believes that female chefs have a better handle than men do when it comes to what cooking is all about. ‘They’re the best,’ he says. ‘When they’re good, they’re much better than us. They’re stronger than us. They make better decisions.’”
Mallmann, on how to live in a house: “The thing about a beautiful house is to make it untidy every day... I wake up in the morning and I see the mess and I love it. That’s the way that I like to live.”
Mallmann, on his diet: “I eat a steak every day.”
Mallmann, on staying off drugs: “I never did drugs — I don’t know why. I feel that I’m drugged all day long, so what else do we need? I’m in love with so many things that inspire me so much.”
Mallmann, on French women in the ’70s: “The ladies are so unfaithful. I love that.”
On cooking for some Very Important French culinary folks: “But Mallmann was seized by an imp of the perverse. Instead of dutifully serving up a delicate ode to Gallic glory, he dispatched an associate to Peru and asked him to secure a thousand pounds of potatoes.”
Mallmann, on the fire being a way of cooking but also probably a metaphor for inspiration and true vision: “I was 40 and I had been doing French food for 20 years... I realized that I didn’t have a voice of my own, and I was losing interest. One day I realized that all those fires from my childhood were very deep inside of me.”
Also a scent: “Pretty soon the fires seemed embedded in him — for real. He would board planes and passengers would ask to change seats, so pungent was his cologne of burning wood.”
This entire section, because fire can also refer to the flames of passion: “He does not deny that his romantic fires have, along the way, left behind a trail of ash. ‘When you live as I did, you leave some harm on the way,’ he says. ‘It’s not only roses. It’s a bit selfish, in a way. But for me there’s no way out.’ In the United States these days, sexual harassment and abuse are being exposed as a plague on the restaurant industry; in the wake of allegations that brought down the New Orleans–based celebrity chef John Besh (and later chef Mario Batali, as well as Bloomfield’s business partner, Ken Friedman), critics are excoriating toxic manifestations of masculinity in the kitchen. No such controversy has surfaced regarding Mallmann. His reputation as a hopelessly romantic ladies’ man, though, is no secret — in fact, he’s happy to tell you all about it. At a certain point in his life, he stopped even trying to hide his infidelities, and he told Chimeno as much when they fell in love.
‘The first time we slept together, I said, ‘I’m 50. I’ve been unfaithful all my life. I’ve lied all my life. I don’t want to lie anymore,’’ he says. ‘I love women and I love to have them around.’”
Mallmann, on his parenting philosophy: “You scar them. They’re scarred.”
On regressing, and setting the scene for your (male) reader: “Here with the cinders crackling and the fat dripping down like candle wax and the splayed ribs of the lamb starting to look like a glistening harp, it’s easy to regress to the mind-set of a 12-year-old boy. You eat with your hands. You toss sticks into the fire.”
Mallmann, on management: “I tell my managers, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but Don’t. Ever. Call. Me. With. A. Problem. Fix them.’ And it works!”
Mallmann, on cooking: “The most beautiful thing about cooking is the silent language. You can’t write about it. I can’t teach it. That’s why there are so many cookbooks but not much success out of cookbooks.”