12 days: on the tenth day of christmas: zonfrillo… (2017)

 – “Give back more than you take.”  Those are the words that Jock Zonfrillo inscribed on the dry-erase board in the kitchen, which every guest chef at the Twelve Days of Christmas is invited to sign at the end of their dinner. Every year, there is usually one chef who pleasantly surprises me.  This year, it was […]



“Give back more than you take.”  Those are the words that Jock Zonfrillo inscribed on the dry-erase board in the kitchen, which every guest chef at the Twelve Days of Christmas is invited to sign at the end of their dinner.

Every year, there is usually one chef who pleasantly surprises me.  This year, it was a 41 year-old Scotsman from Australia.  Before this year, I had never heard of Zonfrillo. And needless to say, I have never been to his restaurant Orana in Adelaide, Australia.

But after spending a few days with him in the kitchen at The Restaurant at Meadowood, and hearing about his motivations and goals as a chef, I was moved to learn more about his philosophy of caring for and creating an Australian cuisine.  I’ll skip the details of his life, because I think you should read them for yourself (suffice it to say, he has lived a lot more life in about the same amount of time as I).  I would also encourage you to read about his foundation, which is also named Orana, an aboriginal word for “welcome.”  It is crucial to understanding why he opened his restaurant.

Orana’s mission is to “revolutionise Australian food culture through combining the preservation of indigenous knowledge and practice with contemporary methods and innovation.”  If the foundation is concerned with preservation and knowledge, then his restaurant seems to be where the innovation happens.  An abbreviated version of this message is what he brought to the kitchen at the The Restaurant at Meadowood on the tenth night of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas.

Plate selection  Dampers on the coals.

I wouldn’t know if Zonfrillo’s cooking represented aboriginal foodways or not.  I am woefully ignorant about that culture. But I can tell you that his cooking is dynamic, full of bold flavors, many of them unfamiliar to me.  And it was delicious.

His ingredients ranged from the common to the obscure (to an American, anyway). Some, he brought – like chips of kangaroo tendons, which were fried and painted with his version of jerk sauce (my best guess is that they were made akin to prawn crackers, and they had a very similar look and texture).

Some, he found in Napa on a morning hike with The Restaurant at Meadowood’s forager Charlie Appel.  These included fragrant madrone wood, which he infused into an ice cream that was sandwiched between soft, sugar cookies.  For this dessert, The Restaurant at Meadowood steeped some of the madrone and other aromatics from the Napa woodlands in a tisane, which was poured at the table.

Zonfrillo introduced us to quangdong, a peach-like fruit indigenous to southern Australia. This was pickled and served with thin sheets of kohlrabi and lemon myrtle.

He told us about aboriginal, boomerang hunts for magpie geese.  For this dinner, he used duck instead, and served it with salted cherry leaves that had been individually flattened and dried to a crisp between sheets of paper towels with a hand-iron (to avoid the greasiness of frying).  He did, however, use goose for a hot broth called “soup soup,” an aboriginal word for particularly delicious broths.

And Zonfrillo taught the kitchen how to make a version of “dampers,” an aboriginal bread that is baked directly in sand and coals (even he marveled that the sand does not stick to the bread).  These golf ball-sized nuggets were put directly on hot coals, and turned until slightly charred.  They were served as a canapé with an aerated hollandaise made with lamb fat.

How tall are Australian kangaroos?

6th Course: This is Madrone!

In many ways, Kostow’s cooking dovetailed well with overarching ethos of Zonfrillo’s cooking: staying close to the land.

In the same way that Kostow coated black cod with the bright-yellow powder of sunflower petals on Day 8, on this night, he dusted black cod with finely ground powder made from local acorns.

The Restaurant at Meadowood also presented a hearty ragu of local wild boar, which was served over a porridge of Guinea flint grits.  It was comforting anchor towards the end of the meal.

The very last course was one of the best desserts I had during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Using the milky backdrop of buttermilk, Zonfrillo showcased the incredible flavors of Australian strawberry eucalyptus (it had uncanny similarity to the aroma and flavor of strawberries, if slightly on the greener side) and pineapple guava.  It was simple, flavorful, and beautiful.

Below, you’ll find the menu from the tenth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas with Jock Zonfrillo .  To see all of the photos from this dinner, CLICK HERE.



Lamb fat Hollandaise.

Wild roses.

Kangaroo Tendon
Jerk sauce.

“Soup Soup”
Goose broth.


First Course 
Pickled Kohlrabi
Burrata, pickled quandong, lemon myrtle.

Second Course
Salad of Sea Scallops
Peas, orache, pecan, and native thyme.

Third Course 
Black Cod
Acorn, truffle.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fourth Course 
Fire-Pit Duck
Potato, kale, cherry leaves,
Kombucha, and eucalyptus.

Fifth Course 
Wooden Valley Wild Boar
Guinea flint grits.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Sixth Course
This is Madrone!
Madrone ice cream and hot cider.
(Zonfrillo & The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Seventh Course
Set Buttermilk
Pineapple guava, strawberry eucalyptus.


Alte Reben”
Grüner Veltiner
Kamptal, 2013

Unfiltered Chardonnay
Napa Valley, 1994

Vincent Paris
“Granit 60”
Vieilles Vignes, 2015

Château Montelena
Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, 1994

Domaine Huet “Le Mont”
Premiere Trie, Moelleux,
Loire, 2015


Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past four years at the Restaurant at Meadowood. Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)
Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s; Portland, Oregon)
Virgilio Martinez (Central; Lima, Peru)
Grant Achatz (Alinea; Chicago, Illinois)
Corey Lee (Benu; San Francisco, California)
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo; Oslo, Norway)
Ignacio Mattos (Estela; New York, New York)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad; New York, New York)
Nenad Mlinarevic (Focus; Vitznau, Switzerland)
Christian Puglisi (relæ; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil; Mexico City, Mexico)
Joshua Skenes (Saison; San Francisco, California)
Matthew Wilkinson (Pope Joan; Melbourne, Australia)
Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan ([One]; Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Isaac McHale (The Clove Club; London, The United Kingdom)
Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread; Healdsburg, California)
Atsushi Tanaka (A.T. Restaurant; Paris, France)
Justin Yu (Oxheart; Houston, Texas)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Mark Lundgaard Nielsen (Kong Hans Kælder; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Manish Mehrotra (Indian Accents; New Dehli, India; New York, New York; London, U.K.)
Jeremiah Stone & Fabián von Hauske Valtierra (Contra & Wildair; New York, New York)
Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon & Tallula’s; Santa Monica, California)
Ben Sukle (birch & Oberlin; Providence, Rhode Island)
Sean Brock (McCrady’s, McCrady’s Tavern, Husk, & Minero; Charleston, South Carolina)
Yoshiaki Takazawa (Takazawa; Tokyo, Japan)
Thomas Keller (The French Laundry; Yountville, California)
Eric Werner (Hartwood; Tulum, Mexico)
Jock Zonfrillo (Orana; Adelaide, Australia)

Photos: Jock Zonfrillo at line-up at The Restaurant at Meadowood; Zonfrillo and Christopher Kostow picking out plates; dampers on the coals; pickled kohlrabi; stoking the coals in the Josper; Zonfrillo demonstrating how tall kangaroos are; madrone ice cream sandwiches; Federico MacMaster holding a pitcher of warm duck broth; Christopher Kostow garnishing salad of sea scallop; Zonfrillo and Kostow plating pickled kohlrabi.


Categories 12 days 2017

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