River Cottage’s new Australian flavour
LIVING the good life starts with establishing roots, literally.
That's the River Cottage philosophy, envisaged nearly two decades ago by British writer and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
He shows viewers how to return to a simple life centred on eating locally, organically and seasonally with the aim of sustainability.
The show runs the gamut from growing your own herbs - a good place to start for beginner gardeners and city dwellers - to raising and butchering your own livestock.
"Everyone has the potential to get some real pleasure and lifelong satisfaction out of growing their own food or changing the way they cook and think about food," Fearnley-Whittingstall told The Guide.
"Once you start that process it reinforces itself really quickly and becomes part of who you are."
While River Cottage has been airing for the past 15 years in the UK, Australia is the first country to produce an international series.
"We've been getting a lot of Australian visitors to River Cottage to do our cooking classes," he said.
"Every time I go down there to meet another group there's almost always at least one, some
times two or three Australians there.
"We've had a sort of dialogue with Australia for a long time and finally that conversation has turned into a plan."
Producers spent several weeks combing the country's south-east coastline for the perfect Aussie River Cottage.
They found it in the tiny town of Tilba, south of Bateman's Bay, on the NSW Far South Coast.
Backing on to a nature reserve and the picturesque Mount Dromedary, the former dairy farm's rich volcanic soil is perfect for a self-sustaining property.
Fearnley-Whittingstall has passed the baton of host to Tasmanian chef, fruitier and organic farmer Paul West.
The former Vue de Monde bistro chef beat hundreds of other applicants to land the plum job, despite his lack of TV experience.
"It's totally new. I was as green as the grass out there," he told The Guide during a set visit, gesturing to the rolling green hills behind River Cottage.
"It was very much straight into the deep end. There was a three-week turnaround between me finding out about the job and shooting the first episode. They flew me up to Sydney, drove me down here, plonked me in front of a camera and went 'here you go'."
Fearnley-Whittingstall joins West in the first episode to help him get started. The pair plant vegie gardens and clean out a chook shed for West's first pair of hens.
"On one level it's freaky because it so reminds me of my first few years of doing River Cottage back in the UK and Paul is almost exactly the same age as I was then," Fearnley-Whittingstall said.
"Paul getting his first egg, I remember that experience for myself 17 years ago and it's a very sweet moment."
In a uniquely Australian twist, they also join members of the local Yuin tribe to tour their sacred mountain, learn about bush tucker and hunt for octopus.
But soon left to fend for himself, West must face challenges, including a water shortage and butchering his pig "Big Boy".
At the end of the eight-part series, Fearnley-Whittingstall returns to see how much progress West has made and celebrate the establishment of River Cottage in Australia with a huge feast.