“I was very stubborn about my freedom.”
I found an unlikely hero in a chef from Argentina.
My wife introduced me to a new Netflix Original documentary series called Chef’s Table. I enjoyed the first two episodes, but the third one about chef Francis Mallmann was fantastic.
Watching the episode got me thinking deeper about questions I have been interested in my whole life:
- Should we strive for a “balanced” life?
- Is there harm in living an “extreme” life?
- Is alignment the answer?
Francis was inspired to “get into food” because of the theatre of it — the flowers, tablescapes, music, décor, and happiness surrounding food got him hooked.
“Food started out in my life as an image when I was 8 and I was invited with my parents to have lunch in a little restaurant in Patagonia under a tree. It was summertime and everybody was dressed up. There were flowers on the table. So that day I don’t remember the food really, but the ambience of what was happening really touched me.”
Five years later, young Francis was “hit by a wave of music.” The experience made him dream there was a very free world somewhere. This feeling gave him a strong desire to build his life around the singular concept of freedom.
In the documentary, he tells a story a family of four girls from Australia who moved into his school. They played a Monkees record and started dancing on tables — Francis had never seen or heard anything like it in his life!
“That was the first time I felt in my blood, and my veins, and my soul what was happening in the world. After that music hit me, and that movement hit me, that was the only thing that interested me.”
This experience changed the course of his life forever.
“I knew that I was myself and that I had to decide for myself.”
Against his parents’ wishes, Francis left school and began living life on his own terms. He spent time dreaming about what he wanted out of life. He wanted the freedom of believing only in himself. He determined at that early age, he would not to be led by anybody.
He started his first restaurant when he was just 19. Many of the books he studied to become a better chef were from France, but the ingredients in the French recipes were hard to find locally.
He began dreaming about French ingredients at night. He wanted to try, taste, and use them. So he decided to go to France.
“At some point in life, you have to turn around and say, I have to find my own way, my own language.”
To his surprise, he couldn’t find a job anywhere. He eventually decided to write a letter to every 3-star restaurant in France. At the time, there were 21. All of the restaurants replied, and while many said no, a few said yes — and he began working for some of the greatest 3-star chefs in France.
Francis has become the biggest food star in the Latin world and he’s built his life on his own terms.
“For the last 30 years I take an average of 4 or 5 planes a week. So I am sitting on a plane, I am changing locations probably every two days. It’s just like a drug for me. I need these constant changes of structures, of people, of languages. They are very inspiring… They are very romantic… They make me breathe… They make me tremble… They make me live.”
Francis lives on an island in Patagonia, Argentina. It’s so remote you have drive 100 miles down a dirt road and then take an hour boat ride to get there.
He does not live with the mother of his child. They spend about 10 days of the month together. He believes that living together destroys passion. He’s bothered by faithfulness because it doesn’t fit with his calling of freedom.
After watching his documentary, many people would think Francis lives an extreme life. He wanders the world. His home is in the most remote of places. Fire is his primary source of energy. He cooks outdoors as often as inside. He believes love is the “most beautiful thing in the world…” but does not believe in traditional marriage.
I believe he has crafted a life in extreme alignment with his passion for freedom.
Francis Mallmann knows who he is and what he wants. He knows people. And he knows how to lead. One of his staff says working with him, “has shown me that practically nothing is impossible.”
Francis says a beautiful thing about growing up is realizing that you are free to make choices.
“I can’t spend time with people I don’t enjoy.”
You have the power to choose your lifestyle and where you live. You can decide to leave jobs or end personal relationships that no longer make you happy. You can make the choice to build a life in extreme alignment with who you are and what you want.
The great Chef teaches that to continue growing and keep improving, risk and uncertainty are required. One must keep dreaming new dreams, conquering new things. Work and uncertainty keep us alive. They give life meaning.
“My life has been a path at the edge of uncertainty. Today, I think we educate kids to be settled in a comfortable chair. You have your job. You have your little car. You have a place to sleep. And the dreams are dead. You don’t grow on a secure path.”
What an inspiration!
I use a weekly routine of reflection to make certain I know what I want from life. Then, like chef Francis Mallmann, I work to build every detail of my life on my own terms, and I make certain a bit of risk and uncertainty always lie in the path ahead.
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