Essential Cooking: Chef Javier Bardauil brings a wood-fired Argentinian culinary experience to Detroit

He sat down with Ann Delisi and Chef James Rigato to talk about his restaurant, learning from world-renowned chef Francis Mallman and his culinary journey from Argentina to Detroit.

close-up of a man wearing glasses, whose face glows orange from a nearby wood-fired oven

Chef Javier Bardauil stands near a wood-fired oven.

In this episode:

  • Chef Javier Bardauil talks about his time working with Chef Francis Mallmann at his Buenos Aires restaurant, Patagonia Sur.
  • The importance of cultivating the guest experience, from the moment they walk in the door.
  • Chef Bardauil’s experience discovering the culinary scene in Detroit.

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When Chef Javier Bardauil first came to Detroit, he knew nothing about the city.

“Everything I knew about the city came from RoboCop the movie,” Chef Bardauil said when he sat down with Ann Delisi and Chef James Rigato.

Chef Bardauil has been running BARDA in Core City, Detroit, a unique restaurant that exclusively uses wood-burning ovens to prepare traditional Argentinian foods. He came to Detroit after starting his career working for Chef Francis Mallmann in Buenos Aires.

“This guy, Francis Mallmann, was about to open another one [restaurant] called Patagonia Sur, in a beautiful place in Buenos Aires called La Boca,” says Chef Bardauil. “So I do my best and I get a spot inside that kitchen, and I was one of the first and only cooks building that restaurant and launching that restaurant. It was amazing.”

After working to help build Patagonia Sur, Chef Bardauil moved between Miami and Buenos Aires, eventually openning a business in Buenos Aires before discovering Detroit through a long-time business partner.

“He told me what was happening here in Detroit. He was living here and he told me that the restaurant scene was blooming. He told me that there was almost no risk about bringing that idea of having a restaurant together,” said Chef Bardauil. “So I did my research, and I tried to see what was happening in Detroit, and I came here, and it was summer, and it was beautiful.”

After finding a restaurant space in Core City, Chef Bardauil opened BARDA, bringing Argentinian food to the front of the table. He uses the lessons he’s learned from Chef Mallmann to cater to the guest’s experience.

“I learned a lot of things, but the most important thing is how to build an experience for the guests. That for me was the most important lesson I learned from Francis Mallmann,” said Chef Bardauil. “How we build memories in people’s minds — it’s not just dinner, we are thinking of all the possible ways that we can affect the memory.”

BARDA has only been open for three years, but has attracted major attention, including a finalist nomination from the James Beard Foundation. Chef Bardauil plans to stay in Detroit, and continue his work to bring Argentinian food to new areas, and to cultivate the guest’s experience.

“The experience begins at the very beginning when you open the door, start listening to music and are embraced by the red neon and smoke.”

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.