Alex Davies loves his greens. Who knows if this was always the case but as a bona-fide adult, he’s a passionate advocate of veges and a leading figure in plant-based cuisine.
Davies’ views on sustainability were born on shaky ground. It was in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake that he opened his first business, a pop-up pizza joint. “There was nothing in the city, so we built a pizza oven out of clay and started cooking local food. I wanted to show people standing amongst the rubble that we live in a very beautiful and productive region.”
This was followed by a stint on a small-scale organic farm. It was there that he saw the love and care that went into looking after the land. Wanting to celebrate the work of local growers and their produce, he opened his plant-based restaurant.
Davies believes that as people are becoming aware of climate change, they are venturing into places like his with open minds. “As resources start to dwindle, people will inevitably be forced to eat less meat and more vegetables. You can create a lot of diversity just by working with plants. Let’s celebrate that as a positive.”
It helps that vegetarian dishes are coming into their own. Restaurants are adapting to demand and offering more than just soggy risottos. Davies is also excited by the emergence of younger chefs that are focusing on vegetarian and vegan dishes. But with a young daughter and an eye on the future, he’s still anxious at the speed of progress. “People seem to be dragging their feet.”
The die-hard carnivores will always take some persuading, and Davies has a few vege tricks up his sleeve. One of the show stoppers on his menu is a carrot-dawg, a seasoned carrot in a hot dog bun. “If you give people familiar cues, they’re more likely to try something.”
It’s a strategy he’s applied to his pieconic collaboration with Z. His Pepper ‘shroom pie uses the flavours and textures of portobello mushrooms to win over the staunch steak and cheese brigade. Davies sees this collab as a chance to talk to the entire country. “New Zealanders love pies. I want to bring people’s attentions to vegetables and plants they may not have engaged with before. Whatever position I have in society, I should use that to voice my opinion about increasing the longevity of this earth. I’m a chef so I show that through my cooking.”
The Pepper ‘shroom pie is available at Z from 26th August – 1st September 2019.