GROWING and cooking his own food is not a choice for Paul West’s physical and mental wellbeing, it is a biological necessity.
The Australian chef and television presenter got to discover that full experience when becoming a rookie farmer for TV show River Cottage Australia, filmed on a property in Tilba, NSW.
“I’m deeply grateful for the time that I spent on the farm,” West said.
“It opened my eyes to the importance of growing your own food, of just how good food can taste when you lovingly tend it yourself and how much I prefer working outside rather than the confines of a commercial kitchen.
“It also allowed me the opportunity to share my passion and experiences with both a national and international audience and to hopefully expose people to a way of life that has been so transformative and beneficial to me personally.”
Since leaving the farm, West, his partner Alicia and their two rambunctious boys Otto (4) and Bowie (2) lived in Melbourne for two years while he wrote The Edible Garden Cookbook and Growing Guide.
They have now moved to the small fishing village of Bermagui on the NSW far south coast.
“I realised that River Cottage was striking a huge chord with viewers in Australia, but felt like the program was more aspirational than informative,” West said.
“Despite many people harbouring the dream of living on a 20 acre rural property, the vast majority of Australians live in the urban or suburban environment.
“I had a good ponder about what the core principles of the program were, people, place and produce, and realised that those messages were transferrable to anywhere people are.
“So I really wanted to write a book that celebrated those principles, but helped people living in towns and cities to connect with their food, their gardens and their communities.”
West said his book had three core sections – growing, cooking and community – with dishes broken up into either meat or vegie-led recipes chosen for their simplicity, nutritional value and accessibility to home cooks.
“I hope that the book gives readers the confidence to grow their own food, to cook it simply and to create their own little bit of culture with their families and friends,” he said.
West launched The Edible Garden Cookbook and Growing Guide at Bib & Tucker yesterday with a menu inspired by the book and specially designed for the event by executive chef Scott Bridger.