When opening a restaurant in Argentina, what better chef to get than Francis Mallmann himself? The Vines of Mendoza launched a new outdoor restaurant set in the middle of their stunning vineyards, Siete Fuegos last week. It will open officially on March 1st.
The restaurant focuses on Francis’ famed seven fires, as the name implies. A sample of the dishes served includes salt crusted salmon, goat roasted with raspberry and jarilla, and of course, ojo de bife. A serious asado indulgence alongside seven fabulous Mendoza wines — some ranked 90+ points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
I caught up with Francis Mallmann at the company’s recent promotional asado to talk about why fire excites him and his favorite book as a child.
Tell us a bit about the project:
It’s quite different that what I have done in the past. Under the shade, in the vines and next to the mountains. The seven fires defend Mendoza’s cooking. The Vines of Mendoza is very interesting and this enormous mix of immigration and culture is important. Together, everyone can enjoy this beautiful place.
What is it that you like about cooking?
Cooking is quite playful, especially when related with fires. The fire cooking goes back to my childhood. I was raised in Bariloche and I lived in a house ruled by fire. To cook we had a fire stove, we had fire for the heating, fire for the water – there was a lot of work related to fire. I try to cook as much as I can outside and my restaurants all have facilities to cook outside. The enjoyment of cooking in a restaurant is related to receiving guests: they always come to a restaurant for a joyful reason and there’s a beauty in that. You are always with people who want to enjoy themselves and are looking forward to what you have to offer.
What is unique about Argentine cuisine?
We have this universe of influences that range from native cooking, the ways of gaucho life and all the immigrants. Mixed together, that makes it a very interesting place to play around and create. The cocktail of all that first gives us all the tools and history, and then it gives us the right to mix an Inca recipe with Italian thoughts!
What is special about fire?
Fire is a language. If you sit in front of a fire with ten people from around the world but don’t speak the same language you are certain everyone feels the same way about it. Fire is inside us from when we are born. It has brought us some comfort from the beginning of time, there is a huge beauty in it.
What is it that you hate in cooking?
I think that vulgarity is a good way to say it. Vulgar cooking is very boring when you eat something that has been done without any respect for the product or for the eater.
In another life, what would you have been?
A fly. Certainly. When I was a young boy I lived in the US and I had a book called ‘As I Sat By The Lake A Fly Went By’. It was the story of a fly followed by a frog, by a cat, a dog, a bear and so on. I love the leading fly because the fly represents almost nothing in human kind but it is a creature that can take the lead.
Siete Fuegos opens March 1st, and will be open by every Wednesday – Sunday for lunch from 1:00 – 3:30.
Be sure to make reservations 24 hours in advance at www.vinesofmendoza.com/sietefuegosasado
Amanda Barnes is a British journalist living in Mendoza enjoying the sun and wine. In another life she would surely have been a pirate: a terrible singer, an avid drinker, a fan of pearls and pretty things, a lover of the sea and likes to believe in mermaids.