Zak Needham

Zak Needham


Adelaide, South Australia

I started my career at the Barossa’s Novotel Resort. After I finished my apprenticeship, I moved to Victoria to work for the McConnell Group Restaurants (Marion, Cutler & Co.).

I was then offered a position in Eagle Bay in Western Australia with my wife Bec to work at an Accor 5-star resort. I moved into a winery restaurant In the Margaret River Region before leaving WA to come home to Adelaide.

Moving back, I worked at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant. My wife and I decided we wanted to start a family and build in the Barossa, where I am currently working as Senior Sous Chef at Appellation.

The fast-paced environment and drive for perfection is what excites me about being a Chef. 

Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a Chef and have my own restaurant, I have always enjoyed cooking for friends and family and helping my Grandma with catering events.

Seeing their reactions to good food just made me so happy I wanted to continue doing it.

How would you define your style? 

Simple, modern and evolving. I’m lucky to have been trained by exciting, talented Chefs with an emphasis on seasonal produce and local purveyors.

What is your feature flavour these days? 

I enjoy making fruit and vegetables the heroes in a dish. However, I’ve also been playing with a lot of inhouse made misos and garums with my team. I find the levels of flavour and naturally occurring umami completely fascinating. 

Obsessive-compulsive about? 

Cleanliness and organisation! Working in a clean kitchen environment shows pride in what you do.

Your greatest culinary influence: 

I get inspiration from a lot of different Chefs around the world, but mainly from working with what is in season and going from there with that idea/ingredient. 

What do you love about this business? 

Our commitment and support to the local suppliers, the ‘little’ people who often have the best produce you can’t find anywhere else.

An ingredient you can’t live without?
Salt. Sounds cliché but the simplest most overlooked part about food is to season and taste.

Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?

We currently have a kohlrabi dish on the menu, it has a no-waste approach to it. The kohlrabi is shaved and pickled, off-cuts made into a type of sofrito. Sweet honeydew is steeped in verjuice with the rest of it being made into a liquid with lovage added and all tied together with a hazelnut creme. 

It’s refreshing, cleansing and light, perfect for the middle of the degustation.

Why should diners visit your restaurant and what can they expect?

Our commitment at Appellation is regional, seasonal and local. Diners should expect to get a thorough understanding of the Barossa region and our hospitality, sustainability and commitment to luxury. 

What do you think the past 12 months of COVID has taught restaurants and Chefs about their diners and the industry in general?

It pushed us all out of our comfort zones to think how we can still accommodate our diners and give them a memorable experience, as well as still be sustainable within our business.

It also made Chefs think more long-term about our environmental sustainability in the kitchen and our menus. 

Tell us something no one knows about you?

I'm also a concreter.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Signing a contract to my own restaurant space.