‘Our goal is to become more and more aware. In food, as in life, awareness brings understanding’ – Geoffrey Murray
Executive Chef of Zachary’s at the Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa in Knysna, Geoffrey Murray, is passionate about all things organic and regionally sourced. His dedication is shown by his delight in growing his own vegetables and herbs for the restaurant in a garden on the estate.
Here he explains his personal process of organic awareness, how he incorporates this into the fine contemporary cuisine at Zachary’s and why this way of eating really does enhance your culinary experience as well as blend seamlessly with the local community.
Talking organic with Geoffrey
‘From the very beginning when I started to work in kitchens at the age of 13 (29 years ago) I have always been around chefs who have cooked within the seasons and have embraced using the freshest available ingredients – “if you can make it, you make it, you don’t buy it”. So before “organic” was a catch phrase, I guess I had already been taught that it is just the way you cook. The BIG awareness about being regional with produce and really supporting the farmers came when I was introduced to Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, at a restaurant where I was a partner in New York called Boom in 1992.’
Why is it better, does it taste better?
‘There are probably a lot of opinions and answers to these questions. Why it’s better in my opinion is probably for several reasons: supporting the community and the farmers, becoming more aware of where our food is coming from, how it’s being grown and how it’s affecting the environment, understanding the nutritional value of something being produced naturally without chemicals or pesticides and so on.
Whether it tastes better really leaves room for debate. Can produce grown without chemicals or pesticides taste better? That should be easy to answer. Whether anyone will be able to taste the difference really depends on how aware you are when you eat. But something that is grown naturally with all the right intentions and allowed to ripen to its optimal potential before harvest must have a difference in taste to that of commercial mass production when the only intention for its production is money.’
How does ‘organic’ fit into Zachary’s?
‘Here at Zachary’s we aren’t 100% organic. I don’t think that would be possible with the present state of organic products available in this country. To be 100% you would really need to have every product that you use come from an organic source, not just produce and herbs. At the best times of the year we are probably using about 60% organically grown, in conversion or certified products. What’s available at present in this country as 100% organic limits you greatly as to what you can produce as a restaurant with an expected five star level of service and offerings.
We have our own garden, about ½ hectare, where we grow a huge variety of vegetable and herbs in an organic way. We are not certified or in conversion yet, we just grow in an organic way. We also source locally from farmers who also grow in an organic way, some suppliers who source both organically grown and certified organic produce for us, a few local cheese makers and from one of these cheese makers on a certified organic dairy farm we also get our eggs and pork, from which we cure our own bacon, hams and make salami and sausages.
The menu changes with the seasons and within the seasons, with new products being sourced all the time. If we suddenly get someone knocking on the back door with a couple kilos of fresh porcini mushrooms from the forest, we will put them on the menu in several different ways while they are around. Every Friday night we serve a Menu Gourmand, four to five course of the best ingredients sourced that week and prepared with inspiration from the kitchen team here at Zachary’s.’
Wine at Zachary’s
Zachary’s was given a Diner’s Club Award of Excellence last year for its diverse and well rounded wine list. Among the many other excellent wines, they also feature a select few organic wines such as Matzikama Shiraz, Laibach Ladybird, Bon Cap Pinotage and Upland Brandies.
The restaurant has also recently had a luxurious five star revamp. Gold hues create a warm and elegant space with opulent fabrics and hints of bronze.
This really is delectable organic-driven contemporary fine dining in a plush setting, and situated along the beautiful Garden Route coast to boot. Definitely an experience to treasure.
Alternative dining at Pezula
Other options include: Zachary’s Private Dining Room (catering for up to 10 diners in a private party), the more informal Zachary’s Lounge and the open air Zachary’s Terrace, on the outside deck (weather permitting), with breathtaking views of the Pezula Championship Golf Course and the Knysna Lagoon.
Call: +27 (0) 44 302 3333
Open daily for dinner, 6pm – 10pm (booking essential)