Wine, Chefs, and a Dream: 5 Questions with Chef Greg Zanitsch of The Fig Tree

Fig Tree

Situated in the historic Elizabeth neighborhood, the Fig Tree Restaurant is an inviting and elegant destination known for its signature wine list that offers pairings with each menu item. With years of culinary expertise behind him.

He received his culinary training at the New England Culinary Institute, and worked in Maui and in Napa Valley before Fig Tree. Zanitsch’s cooking style is a blend of French and Italian, and when it comes to food, he knows his stuff as well as anyone in the city. He graciously took time away from the face-paced kitchen to answer a few questions for us about why he loves the business, pairing wine, and why he landed in Charlotte.

Why did you gravitate toward the culinary industry? What do you most enjoy about cooking?
I like the balancing act of the science of cooking and the creativity of cooking. It’s a creative outlet, but there is also a science to it and a method you have to follow. I also like the people. I worked in restaurants in college, and knew that after I graduated I wanted to make a living in the culinary field. I went to culinary school at the New England Culinary Institute and that gave me the education and knowledge and foundation to one day run my own restaurant (with the help of my incredible wife, Sara, of course).

You’ve lived in lots of places. What stands out about Charlotte’s culinary scene to you?
I think Charlotte is a young culinary scene, with a lot of ambition, and in the process of defining itself. Our culinary scene and the city itself are growing rapidly, especially in the last five years. We have a lot of people moving here from Atlanta and a lot of other bigger places because of the growth prospects and the charm. That’s helping place Charlotte on a lot of people’s culinary radar. We went to New York last fall to cook at the James Beard House and I had the opportunity to meet Daniel Boulud. He was well aware of what’s going on in Charlotte and was very interested. That’s a good thing. We like that people want to be here.

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Tell us why the wine pairing is such an important aspect of a good meal to you.
My time working in Napa Valley really made me realize the importance of wine with food. Wine is a condiment, not a separate entity. When done correctly, it enhances the overall experience.

What would your “final meal” be?
Oysters and champagne, specifically Jacques Selosse Initial Grand Cruller Blanc de Blancs Brut. Simple, but great.

What is your favorite dish to cook?
I like braising, so probably Osso Bucco. It takes such a precise, step-by- step method.

If someone has never eaten at Fig Tree, what should they know going in/expect?
We want people to know that the owners and the staff, both front and back of house, genuinely care about your experience with us.