Chef James Diack, owner of Coobs, is proving to fine dining enthusiasts that his new destination in the culinary journey ensures his customers eat well, and eat ethically.
“Coobs is one of only two restaurants in South Africa which can accurately trace the provenance of our food – meaning we know exactly where our ingredients come from,” explains James. “The menu at Supper Club highlights the part of the dish that comes off the farm. Dishes will be fresh, simple and show off the quality of the ingredients.”
James goes on to explain that the wine will feature mostly small producers that pour their hearts into every bottle and care where their wines are served, and what they are served with.
Open for three years, Coobs is 85-90% self-sufficient, supplied by Brightside in the Magaliesberg, a farm which has been in the Diack family for years – and it’s where James grew up. James’ mother, Janet Diack, is passionate about farming and supplying the restaurant – what they can’t grow themselves they source from suppliers who share their passion for provenance.
Two three-hectare veggie gardens supply the restaurant with herbs, vegetables and fruit – it even makes its own ricotta. The farm also supplies Coobs’ now legendary acorn-fed wild board, lamb, duck and the occasional pigeon or guinea fowl.
“I remember growing up on the farm and getting excited when it was mango season, or orange season. Now, consumers have become so spoilt that they expect everything to be available all the time – even if it’s out of season,” says James. “Being a self-sufficient restaurant means I can educate my customers about respecting the ingredients.”
The move to sustainable eating is a global trend. In the retail sector, some of the world’s biggest retail chains, including Tesco’s M&S and Walmart – have already made moves to support the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP). In South Africa, the GSCP’s custodian is the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (Siza). Local retailers such as Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay are leading the pack locally when it comes to big retailers being sustainable and ethical.
“It’s one thing to be able to buy your groceries and know where they come from, but what about when you are eating out,” James highlights. “More and more South African consumers are choosing to buy organic and sustainably farmed food, South Africa’s restaurants must adapt to keep up.”
The back-end to South Africa’s restaurant and retail industry is making strides. According the Winery of Goodhope’s website, only about 12% of South Africa’s country can be used for crop production and currently some 1.3 million hectares are under irrigation.
Sustainable farming isn’t only about what you farm, it’s about how you farm – understanding seasonality, and what grows best according to the soil and climate of the area is also important.
So what’s next for Coobs in this sustainability journey, “Coobs at Home,” Diack says. “In the future, I’d like to be able to sell 100% organic and free range meat from the farm direct to our customers.”
For more information, visit the website www.coobs.co.za, or follow them on Twitter @CoobsParkhurst.