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The Argentinean chef told Esquire that he smells so strongly of burning wood people don't want to sit next to him.

Elisabeth Sherman
January 23, 2018

Chef Francis Mallmann has always been cool, but when he was featured on an episode of Netflix's Chef’s Table, anyone who hadn't already been paying attention tuned in. The now-famous episode revealed Mallmann to be a super-fashionable free spirit who lives on a private island in Patagonia for much of the year, smokes cigars, and cooks his signature meat dishes over open fires. A new profile from Esquire seeks to expand on that portrait of the chef, calling him “elusive, complex, and honest,” and revealing some intriguing tidbits about the mysterious figure.

First of all, Mallmann tells Esquire that the smell of burning smoke—from so much time spent roasting meat over open fires— has seeped so deeply into his skin and clothes, it actually causes problems when he’s traveling: On airplanes, passengers will sometimes ask to change seats because the smell is so “pungent.”

The smell won’t keep Mallmann from his love of fire, though: He cooks a lamb over a fire for the writer, opening a couple bottles of wine at 11 a.m. and eating with their hands. Indeed, Mallmann is a committed carnivore; he mentions that he eats steak every day — sometimes twice a day.

The profile asks if Mallmann is “the most interesting chef in the world,” and it makes a strong case that he may actually live up to this lofty proclamation: He’s a person who clearly lives by his own codes, out of the norms of society, where he’s happy to carve out his route, without answering to anyone.

The chef is so adverse to what anyone else would consider a normal life, in fact, that he says he never makes plans, or changes them on a whim, without informing anyone, and even readily admits that he’s been unfaithful to his romantic partners all his life. He calls fear and routine “the worst enemies we have,” proclaiming that he’s “not afraid of anything,” and feels confident that he could start over anywhere — even “cleaning bathrooms.”

Mallmann may have a reputation for being unusual, but these quirks make him all the more loveable. And his cooking stands up: The writer terms the meal they shared as “brutally delicious.”