PRO­FILE Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall

Eng­land’s celeb chef/sus­tain­able farm­ing cam­paigner is hand­ing over the reins to a rookie with sparkle for an Aus­tralian ex­per­i­ment, writes Deb­bie Schipp.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - CELEBRITY -

IT’S early March in pic­turesque ru­ral Cen­tral Tilba, on the NSW South Coast, and de­spite meet­ing only days ago, River Cot­tage founder, celeb chef and sus­tain­able farm­ing cam­paigner Hugh Fearn­leyWhit­tingstall and his rookie Aussie River Cot­tage re­cruit Paul West are get­ting along fa­mously.

The pair is, you could say, like two (sus­tain­ably-grown and sea­sonal) peas in a pod.

About 15 years ago Fearn­leyWhit­tingstall (pic­tured at right with West) quit Lon­don for the coun­try, set up in a gamekeeper’s house, named the place River Cot­tage and made an art form of sus­tain­able, tasty self-suf­fi­ciency, and a swag of tele­vi­sion se­ries along the way.

The River Cot­tage ex­per­i­ment is now be­ing re­peated in Aus­tralia, with West at the helm.

West, 29, hasn’t got a patch of tele­vi­sion ex­pe­ri­ence but, like Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall, opted out of high-level cheff­ing and chose a ru­ral ex­is­tence with sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and a love of food at its core. Which, Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall says, made him the ob­vi­ous choice as the keeper of Aus­tralia’s River Cot­tage.

The pro­ject has been es­tab­lished on 10 hectares in the rolling hills around Cen­tral Tilba, with the first crops in, and the first an­i­mals tak­ing up res­i­dence un­der West’s – and the cam­eras’ – watch­ful eyes.

Over din­ner, cooked with lo­cal pro­duce, at a prop­erty ad­join­ing the River Cot­tage Aus­tralia farm, Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall en­thuses his new mate West ‘‘picked him­self for the role’’.

‘‘For me the ab­so­lute no-brainer with Paul was the sparkle, the twin­kle in his eye,’’ he says. ‘‘I saw it in the first lit­tle taster tape that he did. He was cook­ing and talk­ing to cam­era and he was re­laxed.

‘‘And now I’m work­ing with him, I’m see­ing him talk­ing to other peo­ple – po­ten­tial con­trib­u­tors to the show – and he’s to­tally en­gaged.

‘‘It re­minds me so much of the early days of the first River Cot­tage 15 years ago – putting feel­ers out, find­ing out about the lo­cals, get­ting con­nected with the sto­ries and the food prove­nance around here.

‘‘The thing I have en­joyed the most is see­ing how rapidly Paul has con­nected and is hun­gry for the con­nec­tions of the area – he wants to put down roots here. I re­mem­ber that feel­ing with the orig­i­nal River Cot­tage in Dorset.’’

For his part, West, 29, a long-time River

Cot­tage fan, ap­pears in his el­e­ment.

A chef by trade who, un­til this gig, had his own dreams of es­tab­lish­ing a farm gar­den at his home in ru­ral Tas­ma­nia around cheff­ing jobs, has worked in ‘‘just about ev­ery as­pect of food pro­duc­tion’’.

‘‘I’ve done whole­sale, re­tail, high end fine din­ing, cafes, plant­ing food, and for me the best part about it is the grow­ing of it and the shar­ing of it,’’ he says.

But he ad­mits to be­ing a lit­tle starstruck meet­ing Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall.

‘‘You spend all this time watch­ing some­one – it’s so strange to be then work­ing be­side them.’’

Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall ap­pears in the first episode of the Aus­tralian se­ries, hand­ing over the reins to West, al­though ‘‘you might see me later in the se­ries if you’re lucky’’.

‘‘The dilemma for me this week is, here is a guy with so much prom­ise and pas­sion and affin­ity with the land and gen­uine cook­ing abil­ity and will­ing­ness to learn that even af­ter three or four days I thought: ‘I just need to let this guy go and do his thing’.

‘‘I feel right here in this com­mu­nity that is to­tally the right mo­ment for that for Paul, just like it was for me in Dorset.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.