Francis Mallmann, image courtesy of The Garzon Club and Restaurant Garzon Public Relations.
The Garzón Club is a genuinely privileged environment with an exclusive range of unparalleled experiences in a beautiful private setting ideal for reflection, learning, inspiration, celebrations, and enjoyment. Many options exist — the opportunity to handcraft your own wine, take advantage of a private cellar to store a part of your collection or bring wine to the elegant dining room to enjoy with your guests. Everything is available to you at the club. Sustainable facilities, breathtaking landscapes, exceptional culinary products, food pairings, and wine tastings.
You can play golf at the Garzón Tajamares: the first International PGA Preferred Golf Course. There are outdoor activities and a Wellness Spa and Lodge. You can enjoy private residences, the beach club, and an active social life. Private events at the winery and other international locations are all a part of the Garzón Club experience.
This is the vision of Alejandro P. Bulgheroni, Global Entrepreneur.
The entrance to the Bodega Garzon. Image courtesy, The Garzon Club.
I recently returned from Uruguay, and I was taken aback by the country. With so much global turmoil it seems this little slice of historical paradise in South America has somehow escaped it all. My hosts at The Garzón Club took me on an nostalgic tour of José Ignacio, a lively fishing village in Punta del Este to experience the arts, dine at the local restaurants, tour the stunning Bodega Garzón, the extra virgin olive oil mill, and the state-of-the-art clubhouse and much more. I definitely was not prepared for where I would find renowned Argentinian Chef and The Garzón Club’s Ambassador, Francis Mallmann. The town of Garzón is a historical, rural village in the province of Maldonado, Uruguay. The population is maybe 100 people, unspoiled, peaceful and the location of Mallmann’s restaurant El Garzón. About a mile to the east is The Garzón Club.
I was enthralled to have 30 minutes to sit down with Francis Mallmann. — Diana DeLucia
GK: Why Garzón and Uruguay?
Uruguay is a significant part of my history, my mother is Uruguayan, and although I wasn’t raised here, I spent a lot of my childhood vacations with her family in Montevideo. In 1978 I started to work in my first restaurant Posada del Mar in José Ignacio, at that time the town had no roads or electricity, and water was delivered via
donkeys, but despite the challenges, we opened the restaurant by the ocean and stayed in operation for over 26 years. In the beginning, the restaurant was not mine, but I eventually took it over and opened a second restaurant in José Ignacio, named Los Negros. In 2000 I had the idea to open a restaurant and hotel in Garzón at the old general store.
Restaurant Garzon. Image courtesy The Garzon Club.
Everyone thought I was crazy because, you know, it was a tiny phantom town, abandoned and quite a drive from José Ignacio and Punta del Este. RegardlessI bought this little corner store in 2003 with my friend who became my business partner. In 2006 I closed my beach restaurants Posada del Mar and Los Negros in José Ignacio and moved indefinitely here. My friend sold his share to Alejandro Bulgheroni, who is my business partner.
We refurbished the building, being careful not to change the heritage. We built the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. I have everything as I like it now. There are five bedrooms, and the kitchen is magnificent. We only cook with fire here, we don’t use propane or electricity in the kitchen, soif you want a cup of tea, you have to start a fire. That is the credo of our cooking here.
GK: Tell us how you came to meet and partner with Alejandro Bulgheroni.
Alejandro Bulgheroni and I came here to this area around the same time; we didn’t know each other at all. He was producing olive oil, and I had opened this little restaurant. Over the years we met a few times. It was a very slow thing. Food and wine are one of the things that we both embraced, so when he built the winery, we started to talk about doing a restaurant there together. It was a very organic relationship that developed over many years. Mr. Bulgheroni is an engineer, and he comes from the oil world, we have such different upbringings, you know. I am more of a bohemian chef, but we merged our ideas andthoughts, very slowly, and I emphasize this because it’s nice, we met many times, talked extensively and then had more lunches and meetings. Eventually, we began to merge, first with the olive oil, and then with the winery.
One of the woodfire ovens at The Bodega Garzon. Image by Diana DeLucia.
GK: Tell us about your wood-fire Domos and Christofle carts.
I have them in four of my restaurants, France, Chile, Mendoza, and at The Garzón Club. It is a beautiful and delicious way of cooking. The use of energy is excellent, with one fire you can do many, many things. At The Garzón Club at the Bodega, which is about a mile away, we have what
I like to call the restaurant of fires. The cooking style at The Garzón Club is quite elegant as opposedto here at El Garzón where the cooking is more brutal, rustic and unstyled.
At The Garzón Club, we have the most incredible equipment. We have the entire collection of Christofle carts, and we use them to present roast meat, cheese, ice cream, desserts, and Armagnac. There is such a beauty to those dining rooms. A member could be sitting in the living area reading a book with his wife and children, and then suddenly we show up with these five Christofle carts and they can eat right from that, or they can have a very formal lunch or dinner upstairs, whatever pleases them.
GK: You have a lot of guest chef visits, what can they expect?
When we bring in a guest chef; we support themwith a concierge, provide them with everything they need so they can experience cooking here successfully. I am very proud of the combination of incredible equipment, elegant buildings, and striking views.
GK: How do you observe the difference between cooking in a restaurant and cooking in private golf or country clubs?
Working in a club of members, [pauses] the beauty is everything about it. The food and wine is half of it, and the service is the other. I make a definite boundary between the two because cooking to me is a craft, but the service is an art, they are two different worlds.
The beauty of the art of service in a private club where you have the resources as we do at The Garzón Club, you can do the most incredible silent things for your guests. That’s the most significant ingredient in a member club; the silent ingredients. Respecting intimacy is very important, you have this incredible possibility to deliver
food and service then step back and let the members lead. You don’t need to have the arrogance to explain every dish. They already know aboutthe culture of food and arts, if they ask that’s fine, but after that leave them alone with a silence that they will never forget. Maybe it sounds weird, but the message should be wrapped in a beautiful mystery. The privacy and the silence should be so delicately executed that they want to know more, but they can never know more as it is unexplainable in words, that’s the way to touch a members heart, he will go back home and say, “What an incredible day I had but I can’t explainit. “If I were working in the private club world, that would be my aim.
GK: Tell our private golf and country club chefs what they could expect with a collaboration at The Garzón Club.
We have the most beautiful tools, fire in every way — domo, plancha, grill, and ashes. The beauty of collaboration is they can think about what they want to do with these tools. I want them to come here with a dream, and then we can help them with our knowledge of fire and how they can achieve creating their recipes using new techniques with our fires. With the assistance of Executive Chef Ricki Motta, we would station some chefs in the kitchen, some in the fires kitchen and some outside using the special tools and grills we have out on the terrace. There would be lots of planning, and we would offer them a concierge list of products and ingredients so they can start thinking about what they can use and then we can work with them on how to create their recipes using new techniques with our fires. Diversity is the most beautiful thing, we all come from all corners of the world with different training, if we come together with our diverse mix of cultures in collaboration, this could produce incredible results.
GK: It means a lot to me as the founder of Golf Kitchen, to watch the chefs continue to have opportunities to collaborate and advance the knowledge and talent in the Private Club Industry. Many thanks and we look forward to working with you in the future. ~ Diana DeLucia