Meet | Michael Jackson, Ovolo the Valley

Michael Jackson started working in hotel kitchens when he was just 12 years old, and since then it has blossomed into a career, but his passion for growing produce started much earlier.

Growing up, Jackson has fond memories of growing vegetables with his mother, and at age 15 he began an apprenticeship as a kitchen hand. He said that everyone has their thing, and his thing was kitchens.

Jackson currently works as head chef at Ovolo the Valley, a trendy hotel in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Its flagship restaurant, ZA ZA TA is known for its character and vibrancy, and for the fact it is entirely plant-based. Jackson said that ZA ZA TA is a unique home for those who like to cook.

“We utilise what I would say is humble cooking and execute it into the restaurant space, we are more a family than a brigade. The food is made by family and friends for family and friends, its all about flavour, texture, colour and sharing and most of all good times.

The menu at ZA ZA TA offers guests to experience different takes on famous dishes, such as eggplant schnitzel with melted tahini, gribiche, fennel, and lemon. Sweet offerings include rosewater Turkish delight, or labneh cheesecake with rhubarb jam and pine nut sable.

ZA ZA TA has been described as being a place where worlds and cultures collide, and its menu is noted as being a mix of cuisines found in Tel Aviv, Middle Eastern with hints of Mediterranean, and a modern twist to old favours. The restaurant has also incorporated a breakfast menu, with offerings of twice-baked buttermilk french toast and the house omelette. Jackson said that a goal of his was to create a menu applicable to different times of the day.

“I really wanted to do great food in a hotel setting from breakfast to dinner, I would love to replicate the same principles and culture in another kitchen interstate,” he said.

Bread is Jackson’s favourite thing to cook, and he said that he loves it from belongings that have touched all cuisines, age-old traditions that seem to always stay relevant to culinary exploration. During his spare time, he enjoys taking trips up to the mountains, which he said is a great time to reflect and think.