Chef Francis Mallmann doesn’t like to play it safe. He is perhaps best known for playing with fire — and the Argentine barbecuing techniques he demonstrated on Netflix’s docu-series “Chef’s Table.” He has opened restaurants in destinations as far-flung as a “ghost town” in Uruguay and the mountains of Mendoza. And now, he opens his first European restaurant at Château La Coste, the 600-acre organic winery and open-air contemporary art park on a remote estate north of Aix-en-Provence.
“I sort of fell in love with the scope and the romance of the place. It’s like a beautiful, deep dream that marries the wonderful worlds of food, wine and art,” he said earlier this month about the new home for his signature wood-fire cooking. “I like the idea of distance, that people travel not for the food but for the life experience.”
His new namesake restaurant is adjacent to the property’s art center. In the courtyard, behind a rainbow-hued rendition of a pergola by the artist Daniel Buren, chef Mallmann’s hulking wire dome easily passes for an art installation itself — but will soon be used for hanging and slow-cooking whole fish, rib-eyes and chicken on the bone.
In his own artistic way, Mallmann sets the scene at each of his restaurants, for guests to escape from their everyday lives. “It’s joy, it’s about celebration,” he offers. “I try to touch people in a different way, in a more complete way. Food and wine were hopefully delicious but I like to think that guests have been touched by a lifestyle experience.” Fire and romance, attendant themes according to the chef, resurface time and again in any conversation with Mallmann. “I try to live life romantically. Sometimes romance is more related to relationships of love but life is romantic, too. The way we wake up, step out of bed, make our plans for the day.”
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