Chef Francis Mallmann
Chef Francis Mallmann (Photo: Soulfirelo)

Where a Top Chef Dines

Restaurant tips from an expert.

Peripatetic South American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook coauthor Francis Mallmann, who has been featured in Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, has been running restaurants since 1977. Now 61, he has no intention of slowing down: he launched Los Fuegos in Miami Beach, Florida, last year and Cava de Fuegos at Montes Winery in Chile in February; an eponymous eatery at Chateau La Coste in southern France will open in June. We spoke with Mallman in Uruguay, where he oversees the restaurant at Alejandro Bulgheroni’s winery.

What are your favorite restaurants?
Certainly the River Café in London for its intellectual democracy—the thoughts about cooking and work [are shared and agreed upon by the staff]. I think that’s the best phrase for it. I would use the same phrase for Chez Panisse in Berkeley [California]. They are the only restaurants that inspire me in that way. In New York I love Prune and the restaurant of the Gramercy Hotel, Maialino. In Buenos Aires, a restaurant called Carlitos. In Italy, Da Cesare near Alba, Albaretto della torre.

What do you order?
The River Café has a changeable menu but I love their meats, desserts, and pastas. I like Da Cesare for its fires and the lamb. I like to eat many small plates at Prune in New York, and I think Maialino’s pastas are the best in the city.

What makes a restaurant great?
The heart of the owner that extends to the staff. It’s a matter of thought, of romance, of care. Good service is related to…what you [as chef] show the staff. Then the care for the guests happens naturally.