December 15, 2015
Patagonia With Francis Mallmann
I’m going to start off by saying that whatever words I put down on this page will not do this trip justice… hopefully the photos will help make up for that.
This entire trip evolved after watching Francis Mallmann’s episode on Chef’s Table. I was in not only in awe of this South American chef’s way of cooking outdoors over fire but his philosophy on life, love, and happiness. Without giving you a whole biography on Francis… I STRONGLY recommend you watch his episode on Netflix.
After watching the show I left a comment on Francis’s Instagram simply as a compliment saying that it would be a dream to come down to Patagonia to document him, his team, and Patagonia itself. To my surprise he responded telling me he liked my work and asked me to send him an e-mail of what I had in mind. Fast forward to a few months later I was on a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina, which would continue to an adventure to Francis’s private island deep in Patagonia where Best Made Co. was shooting their catalog and I was just along for the ride, turning this into a personal project.
After spending a day in Buenos Aires and having an amazing meal at Francis’s restaurant there, Patagonia Sur, the long journey down to the island began… which entailed a 2 hour plane ride to Bariloche, a 6 hour drive, and an hour long boat ride in the freezing cold. What followed next was 10 days of pure magic nestled on this tiny snowy island that you could walk the circumference of in much less than an hour.
Each morning I would wake up before the sun breached the horizon to the sound of Francis’s staff working diligently in the small cabin housing 12 of us… starting up the fires, and preparing breakfast. The cabin constantly smelled of food being cooked… and fire… the smell of smoke became so familiar that it faded into nothing, seemingly ceasing to exist. And their almost primitive way of cooking over open fires spanning over long periods of time was an experience to be shared, for both the people preparing the meals and the spectators, so that by the time you ate you felt the meal was that much more special.
The island is probably the most remote place I will ever go to. Due to being in the middle of a lake, in the middle of nowhere we had zero access to cell service or internet… and when electronics turn off, your brain turns on. Instead time was filled with reading, good conversations, helping around the house, writing, etc. I haven’t truly seen darkness until I came to the island. Standing on the dock on a cloudy night you can’t differentiate the land from the sky... without lights or sounds in the distance it feels as if you’re floating in space. After a few days there you seem to fall into the flow of the island… lacking inhibitions, judgment, and rules… you are able to just be.
Every single meal was mind blowing… is was insane to think that we were in the middle of nowhere but ate five star meals from food quality, place settings, and utensils. However, the most incredible meal was in the middle of a frozen lake. We took small boats to the shore of the mainland, hiked for thirty minutes, and prepared a feast on a small lake in front of the house Francis’s brother Carlos built with his own hands. The meal consisting of potatoes, chorizo, steak, and salad was prepared on the ice over custom made above-ground fire pits. We ate on a picnic table and benches that were carried to the middle of the lake. Just when I thought it couldn’t get more miraculous, heavy flakes started floating down from the sky as desert was served. I don’t think I will ever have a meal that will top this experience.
There is so much more to be told about this trip from the food, to the company, scenery, and insights gained while there. One of the biggest things to be learned is to never be afraid to reach out to people you are inspired by. Sure you may not hear back from them, but you never know… you could end up in a place you never thought possible because of it. Since this trip I have continued to work with Francis in Uruguay and Miami, and I am happy to call him a friend… all because of a comment on Instagram.