Escape to the country:
Magdalena Roze traded life in the media fast lane for a subdued and serene existence in Byron Bay. Now, she’s a champion for rural mums, wholefood cooking and a laid-back lifestyle, writes GEORGINA SAFE
A wholesome new lifestyle agrees with career woman Magdalena Roze.
On a blue-sky day in Byron Bay, Magdalena Roze is perched outside a barn beside a vegetable patch. She is tucking into a freshly baked mushroom quiche and talking about the joys of slowing down.
Roze, an award-winning TV presenter, meteorologist and former Sydneysider, decamped to the NSW hinterland with her husband, chef Darren Robertson of Three Blue Ducks, two years ago. Their son, Archie, was born early last year.
“I’ve learned it’s possible to simplify your life and feel richer for it,” says Roze, 35,who was accustomed to the frenetic pace of morning television, 3am starts and 18-hour workdays. “I’ve been lucky to make the sea change and I’ve learned so much I want to share.”
Roze’s affection for regional life is at the heart of her new book, Happy & Whole, a lavishly illustrated cookbook. It contains over 60 recipes ranging from buckwheat pancakes to spelt pasta salad, and carrot sauerkraut to bibimbap. But you won’t find one for the quiche that she’s eating today.
“I didn’t make it myself,” she says, laughing. “I wish I had made it but when I walked through the doors [of Three Blue Ducks on the Farm] this morning, I couldn’t help myself.”
The celebrity cookbook and lifestyle market is a crowded one, yet Roze stands out for her earthy attitude, likeable personality and refreshing honesty. What other lifestyle guru would admit to a bout of gastroenteritis? Not Gwyneth Paltrow we expect.
“I’ve had the roughest week because Archie and I both came down with it,” Roze admits. “I’m a bit knackered.”
In Byron Bay, Roze has rediscovered her love of cooking and crafting, but the biggest opportunity has been connecting with local mothers. “Being a mother here is really celebrated and respected,” she says. “There is far less pressure here on mothers than in the city: it’s the norm not to wear make-up, there is no pressure on bouncing back, or on post-baby bodies.”
Roze says the community of rural mothers has her helped enormously. “When I had the baby, I had complete strangers dropping off food at our house,” she says. “If we have a spare hour, we’ll all go to the river for a swim or exchange baby tips over coffee.”
Happy & Whole advocates a “holistic but realistic” approach to living, which means simple recipes using natural ingredients. Healthy lifestyle tips range from advice on motherhood and DIY beauty products to decorating your home and hosting afternoon tea. If some of the guidance is a little hippy-dippy – Roze has a penchant for dreamcatchers and hair garlands – it’s all offered up in a warm, non-judgmental tone.
“I don’t think perfection can or should be achieved,” she says. “Drinking a green juice does not make you a good person, and drinking bone broth doesn’t make you a pure person. I don’t believe there is clean food or dirty food – there is just real food.”
The daughter of Polish parents who fled to Australia to escape martial law, Roze grew up taking salami, rye and pickles to school in her lunch box – “way before pickling became popular”.
After completing a media degree and working in broadcast journalism, she found herself presenting the weather during the day and studying meteorology at night. She not only gained her diploma, she also won both the 2009 Biophysical Environments Prize and the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society Prize.
“My parents gave up everything back home to make a better life for themselves, so I’ve always had a desire to make the most of every opportunity I’m given,” says Roze.
When she took a job with Channel 10, she met Robertson on Ready Steady Cook – “We were the capsicums and the other
couple were the tomatoes” – and they began dating shortly afterwards.The pair were engaged in 2014.
When Robertson got the chance to open a restaurant in Byron Bay in the same year, it was Roze who urged him to take it. “I told him, ‘It’s a chef’s dream, you’ve got to do it,’” she says.
But for Roze, leaving her busy lifestyle in Sydney for the calm of Byron was initially challenging as she wondered what she would do. “Lacking that purpose was difficult and I was also quite lonely and isolated because I didn’t have my friends and family around me.”
But then Roze became pregnant with Archie. “When I fell pregnant I thought, I can’t hold onto what I had before, I have the freedom to let that go and to make the most of the opportunities that I have here in Byron,” she says.
Happy & Whole is just one part of Roze’s blooming empire, which also includes a blog and podcast, The Pass.
“I like to get back to basics, connect with the sisterhood and explore the passions that I love,” she says. Happy & Whole, $39.99, Pan Macmillan, is in stores this week. See the exclusive extract in the April issue of delicious.