If you asked me a few years ago what I knew about Chef James Diack and his provenance drive, I would have said: “What?” and “Who?”. Since then, it’s become something of particular importance to me personally and I speak of it often. In our own home, we still work within the framework of our personal budget but we are trying at the very least to create our own source of vegetables, and James is a major inspiration. Get to know more about James’ restaurants, his provenance drive and matters of sustainability here, here and here.
So it was a great privilege when we recently got to visit with James and his family on their farm, the source of almost all of his restaurants’ ingredients.
Brightside Farm, located in the Magaliesburg, is the Diack’s family farm and where James grew up. His mother, Janet, is passionate about farming and supplying the restaurants – what they can’t grow themselves they source from suppliers who share their passion for provenance. The gardens are as beautiful as they are functional. Flowers abound, and they are all edible. Apart from the large main gardens, you keep discovering smaller gardens, situated to provide the right conditions for some of the specialty plants. All the gardens feature benches, stone paths, ponds or sculptures with rambling plants like peas, beans and tomatoes climbing up willow woven structures. The gardens supply the restaurant with herbs, vegetables and fruit, even ricotta. The farm also supplies Diack’s now legendary acorn-fed wild board, as well as lamb, duck and the occasional pigeon or guinea fowl.
I was exceptionally pleased to finally see with my own eyes the famous wild boar roaming around the farm. I’ve spent many a morning at the former Federal enjoying brunch (mimosas!) heaped with wild boar bacon (my best!). The Federal will soon be relaunching with a new look and name but more on that to follow!
As we wandered around the farm, we were almost always surrounded by animals roaming free, or by plots of veggies. It’s great to see that James is a man who can easily back up his promise to the consumer. And here was the evidence right in front of us, and behind us, and next to us …
We were treated to an incredible outdoor lunch while learning more about the history of the farm, the drive toward provenance and how difficult it really can be, as well as finally getting to know Janet, James’ mom, in this, her favourite place. I’m especially excited to see the revamped Melville spot. It promises to offer more of the amazing, seasonal, fresh and healthy dining we’ve come to know and love.
Do yourself and your body a favour and head to any of James’ restaurants for a breakfast, lunch or dinner. You may not be able to pin the busy chef down but if he does make an appearance, be sure to ask him what’s seasonal at the moment!
Chef James Diack can be found bustling around at Coobs, The National, Il Contadino and the soon-to-be-launched La Stalla (in the old Federal space). Brightside Farm is not open to the public at this time.