Having worked on an organic farm for a year, Alex Davies sure knows how to treat a vegetable. A hyper-local devotee, the chef-owner of Gathering in Christchurch, New Zealand sources directly from small organic growers and independent fishermen to make dishes that are reflective of the region and season, a skill he garnered during his time at Napier's Pacifica. He sees Gatherings as more than a restaurant – it's a platform for storytelling, showcasing the hard work that goes into the food before it lands on the plate.
There's no red meat on the menu and the seafood is sustainable, celebrating unsung species. Davies doesn't discriminate when the catch comes in. "Our fixation on specific species is driving them to near extinction," he says. "I don't even give people the option, I just say this is what's available and this is what you're eating."
He feels educating diners on how to appreciate every bit of fish is part of the job, often serving it whole or using different cuts for different dishes – an albacore tuna may be diced into tartare and served with pickled currants, celery and citrus; the rest will become tonnato, served with heirloom tomatoes from an urban garden five minutes away. "I like to serve the food very simply, making it more about the product than the cheffy techniques I can apply," he says. "It highlights the beauty of what we have around us."
The intimacy of the snug space – filled with polished recycled wood tables designed by a friend and romantic posies of dried wildflowers – has a flow-on effect to the food.
"It means we are not making huge demands on the growers and the fishermen," he says. "It also gives us the freedom to change the menu very frequently. It's constantly evolving in some way, shape or form and that's what I really like about it."
Here, Davies has shared his recipe for baked burrata wiht marinated zucchini and fermented chilli. "I love the stringy, stretchy texture of cheese on a pizza," he says. "You can make this recipe with any vegetable, in winter I like to use slow- roasted carrots." Begin this recipe five days ahead to ferment the chilli.
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Recipe by Alex Davies, words by Leisha Jones.