First came Digger...
Now Paul West is adding marriage and a baby to River Cottage Australia
WHEN Paul West first hit screens on River Cottage Australia, he didn’t expect the most common question he’d be asked was why he was on his Tilba property alone.
The chef-turned-sustainable farmer, along with his canine sidekick Digger, has entertained viewers for three seasons with his cooking, charm and introductions to the local country characters.
But while we’ve been invited into West’s home, we’d never seen the others who live there – his fiancee Alicia Cordia and new baby Otto.
Cordia had chosen not to be part of the show. But West thought it was time that should change – and Cordia and Otto, who recently turned one, make their on-screen debut in the first episode of season four, airing this week.
“Over the years people have been asking a lot of questions like, ‘Oh, what’s he do up there [in Tilba on NSW’s Central Coast]?’,” West says.
“But you know, my partner has been there the whole time, so having her and Otto appear very briefly in this season is just a little acknowledgment to that question.
“Alicia’s not going to be presenting a segment in season five – Cooking Baby Food with Leish – or anything like that, just to allay any questions or doubts you might have.”
They’re not the only new arrivals on screens this season.
West has enlisted an apprentice – Bega boy Harrison Balodis, 21 – to help out as his business expands.
“He’s switched on for a young fella, he’s good – he’s got a good teacher,” West says of the new hire, who was a production runner before being drafted for the on-camera role.
“That might have been the other reason we put Alicia in this season. All of a sudden there’s this goodlooking young male apprentice on the program. I think there might have been some Brokeback Mountain associations … ‘Oh, that’s how it works in Tilba’.” Jokes aside, West can use the help. In addition to his duties on the farm this season, he’ll be taking the cameras outside the Tilba borders, touring the country in a food van.
“When we go over the Great Divide we get into a totally different climate and therefore very different produce,” he says of what the adventure will bring to the show. “And as a food van, you’ve got a mobile kitchen. So you can cook with the locals and, in a way, give back to the community that has welcomed you.”
As usual, the food cooked up on River Cottage this season will focus on sustainable produce. West will also cook up a delicious homemade version of an Australian classic – the Monte Carlo biscuit.
“We did a Chico Roll in season two, the Monte Carlo is our new Aussie classic recipe,” he says. “Maybe it’s time to sit down and write a River Cottage Aussie Classics Reimagined cookbook. The Tim Tam could be the next thing.”
Until then, West will concentrate on nurturing both his land and his new family.
“Fatherhood is fantastic,” he says. “Your focus just changes – all of a sudden you go into nurture mode. It’s less that narcissistic-self approach where you think about what you want and yourself and your life. You’re starting to pour your energy into somebody else’s life and it’s the best. I’m totally into being a dad.”
Even Digger – at first affronted by being demoted in the family pecking order – is coming around to the cottage newcomer.
“Otto is now feeding himself so that means there’s a lot of food on the ground,” West says. “Digger’s finally made the connection that Otto means extra food for him, so it’s now the beginning of a lifelong friendship.”
RIVER COTTAGE AUSTRALIA
LIFESTYLE FOOD, TUESDAY, 7.30PM
Family affair: Paul West’s fiancee Alicia Cordia and baby Otto will join him on this season of RiverCottageAustralia.