What were you doing in 2021? For Jamie Musgrave, fresh from a stint cooking in Hong Kong, 2021 was the year he joined the team at Restaurant Botanic, the showpiece restaurant of Adelaide’s sprawling botanic gardens and a restaurant that was about to attain serious lift-off. This July, Musgrave will step into the role of Restaurant Botanic’s executive chef, and will be responsible for maintaining the restaurant’s impressive upwards trajectory.

Considering that Musgrave is following in the footsteps of executive chef Justin James, one might say that Musgrave has his work cut out for him. (Since taking over Botanic in 2021, James and his technical and often theatrical cooking has garnered Restaurant Botanic both national and international recognition, helping the restaurant pop up on the radar of the influential World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.) But when you consider Musgrave’s pedigree – and not to mention his current role as the restaurant’s head chef – one gets the feeling that the reputation of Restaurant Botanic is in safe hands.

Born in Dunsborough in Western Australia’s Margaret River region, Musgrave completed his apprenticeship at Knee Deep before a stint at Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney. After returning to Western Australia, Musgrave spent two years with roving native food pop-up Fervor where he had the opportunity to learn firsthand about First Nations culture, native ingredients and foraging. Next, he spent two years at celebrated fine diner Vasse Felix before embarking on the aforementioned Hong Kong episode and arrival in South Australia.

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In short: since leaving school more than a decade ago to pursue a career in the kitchen, Musgrave has amassed the cooking know-how and experience to lead Restaurant Botanic during its next chapter. But despite the changing of the kitchen guard, dining at Botanic will remain very much business as usual.

“Eating at the restaurant will still be tasting menu only and focused heavily on the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and what’s around us,” Musgrave tells Broadsheet. “But I’m also looking forward to broadening our focus on the whole of South Australia and showcasing small producers around the state.”

For those keen to bid farewell to James before he leaves, the American-born chef’s final service will be on Sunday June 30. After that, the restaurant will close from July 1 to July 16 to give staff a breather as well as give the kitchen time to complete the handover. Then from July 18, it’s go time with Musgrave’s first menu as executive chef coming into effect.

While Restaurant Botanic’s menu and dishes will change over winter, the guest experience will stay as is: a good thing if a visit to the restaurant earlier this month is anything to go by. General manager Alma Pasalic nails that professional-relaxed service approach and continues to lead by example. Beverage director Elle Foster, meanwhile, is equally at home making booze recommendations as she is conjuring non-alcoholic combinations that complement the kitchen’s edible Australiana. Like so many other restaurants in South Australia, Restaurant Botanic is an operation that relies on teamwork to make its dream work.

“South Australia is such an uncovered gem,” says Musgrave. “You don’t always hear much about it, but once you’re here and you’re into it, there are so many great restaurants and bars and the people are super friendly. Adelaide might be a city, but it feels like a small community.”