arah Glover is sitting on the couch in one of the luxurious boatshed bedrooms at Tasmania’s Satellite Island. She’s just finished cooking a celebratory lunch for 20 or so of her business supporters, including Bruny Island Cheese Company and Blundstone. Wearing a long denim skirt and sipping herbal tea, she doesn’t strike you as someone who spends her days rigging up clever contraptions to cook over fire – such as the venison shot on the island that morning, saltwater-poached abalone, and the impossibly rich ‘fire cake’ that made the lunch.
“Kate [owner of Satellite Island with husband, Will] approached me a few years ago after following me on Instagram – she’s fire-obsessed, too,” says Glover. “I was starting to shoot my cookbook but had no idea where it was going. No publisher, just winging it as I always do.” Her inaugural cookbook, Wild, shot by friend and colleague Luisa Brimble, is now on its second release.
“Kate invited me and Luisa to come to the island and shoot for the book. Kate flew down and I invited my family and next thing we have a giant feast happening on top of the island. It just naturally progressed from there, and I now cook for guests who come and stay. I’ll do a little feast over fire on the rock shelf or up the top.” With stunning views from every side of the island, these feasts are quite the spectacle.
Tassie-born Glover’s background suggests a melding of professional and personal experiences has led her to this point. After training at TAFE, an apprenticeship at Lebrina Restaurant in Hobart and a few years in other commercial kitchens, Glover decided “the metal bench and fluoro lights weren’t for me” and moved to Queensland to train as a dietician.
“I loved food and health, and I loved working with people. So I studied natural health at university,” she explains. Glover had struggled with dyslexia and ADD as a child, eventually being home schooled, and felt she didn’t fit in at uni. “So I moved to Sydney because I grew up
surfing with my brothers and that was a massive part of my life.” Landing a role as a visual merchandiser at Roxy, the women’s line of surf brand Quiksilver, Glover discovered a natural talent for VM that saw her become state manager.
When she was made redundant, Glover decided to turn the cookies she’d always baked for her surf mates into a business and launched Bondi Bikkies, a company she later took to New York for a stint before feeling the call of home and returning to Tasmania.
“I started working at Franklin with David [Moyle, now of Melbourne’s Longsong] and he had the wood-fired oven. I got super-intrigued by it,” she says. “Fire was always seen as a boy thing when I was growing up. Girls never really lit a fire, never really cooked over fire, so I had never explored that.
“We did a workshop in New South Wales in the Jumeirah Valley in an old shearers’ quarters. All they had was a wood-fired oven and an outdoor fire, and I thought, well, I guess I’ll just have to cook over fire. I enjoyed the challenge and the woods and the smokiness. And here was my opportunity to be a woman working with fire.”
Later, Glover and Brimble were photographing women surfing in Tasmania and when Glover did a cookup on the beach, Brimble suggested shooting it for the book. “That just all organically happened, and I realised, yeah, this is who I am,” she says. “I love being outdoors and adventuring and creating scenes,” she says.
From there, Wild Kitchen was born, the arm of Glover’s growing brand where she’s on the pans, cooking and creating in the great outdoors over fire. The scenes she refers to are the beautiful set-ups throughout the book and her social channels. “We dress up and style things beautifully within four walls, so why wouldn’t we get rid of those [walls] and still do it?” she says. “I love looking at old photos from the 1800s; they all wore ridiculous clothes, and there would be tables and chairs and pillows and ridiculous amounts of food, and a lot of it they did outside, at a picnic or the polo. I just think that side of it is so cool.
“It’s given me an excuse to be a kid. When you’re outside, you’re not confined by somebody else’s space. You’re not like, oh, I can’t touch the wall with dirty hands. There are no rules. Nature is free and it’s not judging you for who you are,” she says.
Wild is filled with recipes and ideas for experiencing this adventure-cooking yourself. But it’s not as daunting as it may sound: “The thing about the book is it’s not only fire; there’s gas as well. You can use a gas barbecue. You don’t have to do it on an open fire for it to be taken outdoors and be interesting and fun,” she says. “I wanted to inspire people to do something different. And challenge themselves. I always travel with extra virgin olive oil and salt; if you have those two things, you have a liquid to baste and seasoning. So it could just be meat you need – chicken or fish, some vegetables – then off you go.”
Glover has just been touring the US with Brimble for the launch of the second edition of Wild, taking her brand global via a series of outdoor events from east coast to west. And the adventurous duo are already planning book two: “It’s on the back-burner for now. The rest of the year we’re doing cook-ups for the public.” A TV show next? Perhaps an Instagram-age Leyland brothers.