My personal style signifiers are the cotton berets I have custom-made by my friend Romina Savastano in Argentina. They have my name embroidered on them and are fastened with a piece of brown leather. I probably have around 100, all in different colours. I often give them away to clients or friends. Everybody wants a beret!

Some of his cotton berets, custom-made by Romina Savastano
Some of his cotton berets, custom-made by Romina Savastano © Tali Kimelman

The last thing I bought and loved was a 1970s brown corduroy jacket. I found it at Desert Vintage in New York. There’s a string of vintage shops along Orchard Street where you can find incredible treasures. 

The place that means a lot to me is La Isla, my island in Patagonia. It’s a remote place that speaks to the language of my youth: a silent language tied to the winds and clouds, the snow and the sun. I’ve been going there for 38 years and now come with my children. For the past few years, we have also been taking paying guests for a six-night programme of cooking, walking and fishing. I probably spend three or four months a year there. Uruguay is important to me as well. I’m half-Uruguayan and have been working here for most of my cooking life. I love Garzón, the little town where I live.

The cigar box he travels with
The cigar box he travels with © Tali Kimelman
One of his scrapbooks; the watercolour is a tribute to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
One of his scrapbooks; the watercolour is a tribute to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec © Tali Kimelman

In my suitcase you will always find fountain pens, a scrapbook, many pairs of glasses – the last ones I bought were from Oliver Peoples – my cigar box and currently a copy of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which I am reading to my 11-year-old daughter. No one taught me anything about sex at school. I want her to know that there’s nothing wrong with it. Oliver Peoples Hickory tortoise-matte black sunglasses, £337

And the best souvenirs I’ve brought home are eight yak-wool rugs from Bhutan. They have that sort of crafted thing from the past, plus the colours are beautiful. I was there at a time when all the mountains were in flower, alive with magnolias and rhododendrons. When I wake up in the morning and put my feet on top of them, it’s like walking on a path of memories.

Mallman at home in Garzón, Uruguay
Mallman at home in Garzón, Uruguay © Tali Kimelman

The best book I’ve read in the past year, for the second time, is Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, a chef in New York and the former owner of Prune restaurant. The book contains everything she has to say about her history, her marriages – first to a man, now to a woman – her children and her restaurants. There’s no hiding. I am also a big lover of poetry; my favourite poem is the last page of Ulysses as Joyce doesn’t use commas or full stops, and the writing goes on forever. I like to read poetry with my dessert or with friends at the end of dinner. You’re slightly drunk and it’s a good moment to think.  

I really dislike podcasts. The path to getting there feels artificial. I can’t open that door; I feel shy before I go in. 

My style icon is a new designer called Veronica De Piante. She’s Italian-Argentinian but has lived everywhere from New York to Bahrain. I like how she dresses because it’s so simple. It’s that thing where you are going to dinner and look at yourself in the mirror – it’s nothing but it’s everything. She has designed some blazers for me, one in a dark prune cashmere. Besides Veronica, the person whose style I admire most is Miuccia Prada. I appreciate quality and beauty, and she does both very well. Italians!

The old ceibo tree used for the bark prints of the necklaces made for the family
The old ceibo tree used for the bark prints of the necklaces made for the family © Tali Kimelman
A gold necklace with an imprint of the bark from his ceibo tree, one of 12 made for his family
A gold necklace with an imprint of the bark from his ceibo tree, one of 12 made for his family © Tali Kimelman

The best gifts I’ve given were watches to each of my children on their 18th birthday. I bought my first in 1981 – a Cartier Santos Ronde – and that is with my eldest daughter who is now 42. To my son Andino, who is most recently 18, I gave my old Hermès Arceau. I have to keep buying watches as I still have two more children to go. We also all own a necklace with an imprint of the bark of a tree that grows outside our house in Uruguay. I created 12 of them: seven for my children, one for me and one for each of the four mothers who gave birth to them.

The living room of his home
The living room of his home © Tali Kimelman

The last music I downloaded was the Allegretto of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. I love it because it has a descending scale of notes and it gives me vertigo when all the instruments fall at the same time. Suddenly, when you reach the bottom of the scale, the melody starts again. I listen to it when I travel.

I have a collection of too many things. I’m a bit of a disaster. Over the past two decades I have acquired nearly 4,000 white ceramics from Astier de Villatte, which are spread across my homes. They are a great source of joy, but I also use them when we do events. I’ll place 80 on a table with lots of lemons, flowers, grapes and peas. Some are very big, others tiny vessels; I mix them together.

With a ceramic artwork of a cherry tree
With a ceramic artwork of a cherry tree © Tali Kimelman
Ceramics in his atelier in Garzón
Ceramics in his atelier in Garzón © Tali Kimelman

In my fridge you will always find parmigiano, butter, red cabbage, lemons and basmati rice. That’s my fridge of happiness. With that, I can live for a month. When you eat, you need an angel (the rice) and a demon – something a little bit crunchy to add contrast (the cabbage). Otherwise, it’s like a man who is too nice to you – very boring. 

I’ve recently discovered that true life starts at 60. It’s a beautiful thing to grow older: you learn to say “no” more often, more gently, and with more politeness.

Raised beds in the garden of his museum
Raised beds in the garden of his museum © Tali Kimelman

The thing I couldn’t do without is Swiss chocolate: I always come to Uruguay with two kilos. It’s 50 per cent milk, the really nasty, sweet type that melts in your mouth – you have to be happy, don’t you? I eat a piece after lunch and just before sleeping. I’ll brush my teeth, get into bed and eat some chocolate. Also, double smoked lapsang souchong tea made from orange and the peel of the bergamot. I’m a fire chef so I enjoy the smokiness of the taste.

Chocolate buttons and raw cacao; Swiss chocolate is his favourite
Chocolate buttons and raw cacao; Swiss chocolate is his favourite © Tali Kimelman
Mallmann’s Montblanc fountain pens
Mallmann’s Montblanc fountain pens © Tali Kimelman

An indulgence I would never forgo is writing with a fountain pen. I use the triple thick Meisterstück by Montblanc, which I have to order because they don’t sell them in stores where I live. My academic life was not very long but I love writing with a pen, especially the letter “L”. I write lots of essays and stories in my scrapbook, which I’ve been keeping since 1982. The beauty of the pen is that it’s something you can never lend, otherwise it would lose a bit of its magic. Montblanc Meisterstück pen, from £565 

The last item I added to my wardrobe was a Prada shearling jacket from the AW23 collection. I walked into the shop every day for a week before I finally took it home with me. Prada shearling jacket, £5,700

Some of my best ideas have come from drama. It’s the engine of the world. Happiness we love, but drama is the best thing for writing, music and painting. When we suffer, the most beautiful things come out of us.  

A flower vase by French artist Marie Ducaté, who has been visiting the studio to work for 20 years
A flower vase by French artist Marie Ducaté, who has been visiting the studio to work for 20 years © Tali Kimelman

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could would be Gustav Klimt, specifically his erotic drawings – the very naughty ones. Aside from that, I have an atelier in Garzón for painting and ceramics, where Marseille-based artist Marie Ducaté has been coming for two months a year for the past 20 years; I’ve been collecting all her watercolours, sculptures, vases and ceramics. A year ago, I bought a house in town and opened it as a museum that holds more than 300 pieces of her work. 

The grooming staple I’m never without is a bar of cloth soap for my scalp. I’m not too bothered about getting pampered.

Mallman in his garden
Mallman in his garden © Tali Kimelman

In another life, I would have been a couturier. I am a bit of a lady. I love to sew, and practise every morning for two to three hours. I’ve been sewing patches on my jeans since I was around 16, and I feel very proud when I look back on my stitches and they’re all exactly the same. 

My favourite website is Air Mail. I loved what Graydon Carter did at Vanity Fair. He’s a very classy man. I also like The Marginalian, a newsletter edited by Maria Popova that explores the history of writing and writers, linking different works together.

Collections of watercolours, sculptures and decorated tiles
Collections of watercolours, sculptures and decorated tiles © Tali Kimelman
His Chanel watch
His Chanel watch © Tali Kimelman

The work of art that changed everything for me was Courbet’s 1866 painting L’Origine du Monde. It was hidden for many years and went from hand to hand; it was so naughty, no one wanted to show it. It was bought by Jacques Lacan, the famous psychologist in 1955, and now hangs in Musée d’Orsay – the most beautiful painting about the beginning of the world and the beginning of us.

To feel inspired, I make time in the day for two things I love – going to a bookshop or having an extensive lunch with my children. Inspiration comes from life and from hope. If you hold on to hope in your life, inspiration is always there.

My favourite room in my house in Uruguay is the living room, which holds a collection of 22, 2.5m tall lighthouse paintings by the late artist Hugo Arias and his assistant Andino Menendez. I commission three new ones every year from Andino, who has continued the tradition. Each represents a different designer: Prada, Miu Miu, Hermès, Gucci, Chanel. The next will be dedicated to Madame Grès, a French couturier and costume designer from the 1920s – and then Balenciaga.

Five of his 22 lighthouse paintings by Hugo Arias; four more have been commissioned
Five of his 22 lighthouse paintings by Hugo Arias; four more have been commissioned © Tali Kimelman
His bathroom, filled with plants
His bathroom, filled with plants © Tali Kimelman

My biggest adventures have all been related to love and desire. I am always fighting with rationality for the possibility of a wonderful dream. 

The best gift I’ve received was from an Italian friend who found the name of a song I had been asking about for years: “Testarda Io” by Iva Zanicchi. It was used in Conversation Piece, a film by Visconti. Retrieving that song was an incredible gift. It’s very romantic, but in the film it’s set against a complicated drama. It was something I heard a lot in nightclubs when I was young. 

The best bit of advice I ever received was in my late 20s. I was invited to cook dinner for the French president of Cartier after returning to Buenos Aires following many years cooking in France. After the dinner, he told me that my food was very bad and the way I had tried to adapt French cooking to the products of Argentina was not right. At the time I was upset, but I realised I had to find my own voice. That was when I knelt down, picked up the tools of my childhood and started cooking with fire. It brought me to where I am today, 40 years later – which is the most beautiful place.

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