The planet conscious cook
It would be easy to mistake the impulses that lead Alex Davies as ambition, but it is more like restlessness – a deep, nearly primal desire to keep moving forward as a person and chef, evolving, improving. It’s as if he is allergic to stasis.
Find Alex at Gatherings
5/2 Papanui Road, Merivale
We sat down with Alex in his restaurant Gatherings to talk the environment, food, wine and why he doesn't cook meat.
What’s your background?
I enrolled in a chef course simply to make friends when I moved to New Zealand around 12 years ago. However, I was surprised by how much I liked cooking and so traveled around the country working at lots of different food places. Most notable was Pacifica in Napier, where Jeremy Rameka taught me the secret of cooking seasonally as well as cooking from the soul and heart. I then went back to London for a year and worked in a deli, but was drawn back to NZ in the end.
In Christchurch when I returned, I met the people behind Gap Filler and started Local Food Project. It was a project aimed at showcasing and celebrating what we have in this region and trying at a time where everyone was just seeing a broken city, to show that outside of that, we’ve got this really beautiful landscape. I then went on to become co-owner of Shop Eight, where I worked for a year and a half to much acclaim, before leaving in mid 2015 to work on farms and various pop-ups around the country.
What’s your philosophy around food?
Trying to lower our impact on the planet as much as possible, be that through lowering food miles or lowering certain emissions through dietary choices. But mostly, just really honouring the land and recognising it as our source of food.
Why have you invested in Christchurch?
I love it here. I love the community that exists (the creative community in particular) in Christchurch, as well as the strong relationships I have with farmers and organic vegetable growers in the region. That’s actually a really important aspect – the access we have to these people. In Auckland, even if I drove for 20 minutes, I’d struggle to find organic growers. I think Christchurch is a really great place to be, I think it’s thriving, and it can only grow from here, there’s no question there.
What’s your ideal Gatherings experience for guests?
For guests to come and try and taste dishes that they may have never experienced before, and to just have a really good time basically. And ultimately to generate a space in which people can really relax in; buy good food, good wine and good beer, and not feel that the good stuff is necessarily stuffy or pretentious.
What inspires you?
Nature, the landscape, the world around me, things that I see everyday, people doing interesting things.
What’s your dream project?
This [Gatherings] is my dream project.
How would you summarise Gatherings?
It’s a tiny restaurant in Christchurch focusing on sustainability, and what we have accessible to us in this unique region. It’s an honest celebration and expression of what’s here in our Canterbury environment, and it’s a place to have a good time.