Francis Mallmann, chef/owner
Francis Mallmann 1884
The phenomenon of jet-setting chefs isn't confined strictly to the Paris-New York route, or the Los Angeles-Las Vegas shuttle. Francis Mallmann, Argentina's premier chef, probably puts at least as many miles on his AAdvantage card as any top toque from Beverly Hills or Monaco.
Mallmann has had a long string of successes since opening his first place at the ripe, young age of 18. "Those were hippie days, and I was a high-school dropout," Mallmann jokes, "so I had to go into cooking." He found his life's calling in the kitchen. These days, Mallmann's portfolio includes the intimate Restaurante Los Negros in the hideaway fishing village of Faro de José Ignacio, an hour outside Montevideo, Uruguay. This in-spot is a sun-drenched destination for wintering New Yorkers, several of whom begged Mallmann to open a place closer to home. Mallmann obliged them by creating the breezy Patagonia West, in Westhampton, Long Island, which debuted to great acclaim in 2002.
But the peripatetic chef's signature establishment is still the eponymous Francis Mallmann 1884. A destination diner's dream-come-true, it's located in the historic Bodega Escorihuela winery in Mendoza, Argentina, in the heart of the country's thrilling wine region. (Escorihuela is just one of the wineries owned by Nicolás Catena, the Robert Mondavi of Argentine wine.) If you want to get away from the impending snow this winter, Mendoza is well worth a visit, for the restaurant as well as for the region's burgeoning wine scene. It's an easy two-hour flight from Buenos Aires, or a 45-minute hop over the spectacular Andes from Santiago, Chile.
Last year, 1884 rated seventh among the world's most desirable restaurants in a London Times list, and it's easy to see why. The dining room is a study in restrained elegance, with its spacious ambience, cool marble floors, earth-toned walls, and high-backed chairs. The place attracts the local gourmets, but frequently plays host to an international crowd of wine glitterati. Sedate, tree-lined Mendoza, with a population of around 900,000, has in fact become a global wine hub. You might sup next to globetrotting oenology consultants at dinner while power brokers such as Eric de Rothschild and Nicolás Catena strike up wine deals in the back room.