Executive Chef Michael Cooke, of Vergelegen wine estate's Camphors Restaurant, earned the coveted Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability award in 2019 for the second time. (first won in 2017.) The Award is considered the gold standard for its stringent sustainability criteria.
Michael is steadfast that all of the meats and seafood are ethically-raised and locally-sourced, to ensure the best quality, to support local producers, showcase the region, and reduce energy and storage costs. He and the team constantly discover wonderful ingredients on the 319-year-old Vergelegen Estate.
The gardens of Vergelegen Wine Estate are legendary. A staggering 3000 ha of ground is an ancient eco system that thrives with the biodiversity of the Cape. Chinese camphor and oak trees dotted around the property have been there for over 300 years. On one side of the property is a shaded, musty forest where wild mushrooms pop up overnight, right next door is a pretty ombré rose garden, where fragrant petals can be picked. Further over, in the heat of the scrubby veld, a gnarly bramble bush produces juicy blackberries and in another, fresh pears grow on ornamental trees.
Michael is passionate about grooming his kitchen team to become savvy foragers, who understand intimately where the produce they are using comes from. They head out to gather ingredients from around the property – some are found in the dedicated vegetable and herb garden, but many are found around the grounds at spots that the team have identified. Foraged ingredients include mulberries, wild mushrooms, wood sorrel, wild herbs, nasturtiums, rose petals, and other edible flowers, plants and berries.