Once a big-time chef, Paul West became the poster boy for a new wave of sustainable living and eating when he pipped 1300 applicants to became the face of River Cottage Australia in 2013.
Now living in Tilba on the NSW South Coast, the new Dad is fully involved in country life—from cooking sweet treats with the CWA ladies, to fishing with the locals and organising the annual social cricket competition.
Lucky for us, Paul will swap Tilba for Perth when he arrives for the PIAF Perth Writers Festival, which runs from 18-21 February at The University of WA.
A passionate advocate for supporting local produce, we caught up with Paul to chat about farm life, the upcoming series of River Cottage Australia and what his last meal on earth would be.
Hey Paul! What can we expect from you at this year’s PIAF Writers Festival?
Scintillating conversation, bad jokes and food for thought.
What has been the highlight and lowlight of living on a farm?
The highlight has been having the opportunity to raise some of the freshest and most delicious food that I have ever eaten. The lowlight would have to be the frustration that comes with working in the natural world. Lots of hard work can be undone in a single night with a visit from a fox or a fierce storm.
I am dying to watch season 4 of River Cottage! What can we expect?
More delicious food, more community characters, more Digger and for the first time I explore some horizons beyond the South Coast of New South Wales.
Any behind-the-scenes secrets you can tell us?
Digger is definitely my dog! People ask me all the time!
Is living in Tilba as idyllic as it seems?
It's a paradise without a doubt, although there's a lot more hard work happening that you don't see on camera.
Why did you first get into cooking?
I couldn't cook to save myself and I was working as a kitchen hand in a mate's restaurant. I had no degree, no trade and no qualification so I figured I'd take the plunge and hit him up for an apprenticeship.
Are you more of a sweet or savoury guy?
Can't I have both?!
What is your favourite meal to cook?
A roast free-range chook, preferably one of my own. I cook one every week without fail.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t a chef?
Have you been to Perth before? What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re here?
I have, but only briefly! I love hiring a push bike and riding around an unfamiliar city. I want to eat at Greenhouse and I want to watch the sun set over the water!
What are you favourite restaurants in Australia?
For someone in the food scene in Australia, I don't eat out a great deal. I live five hours from Sydney in a regional area so my local dining options are pretty limited. I prefer to cook at home any day. My food, my table, my wine, my beautiful family—how could any restaurant possibly compete with that?
What would you request for your last meal on earth?
Grass fed flank steak cooked over fire, with pomme frites and dijon mustard. Yum!
Image credit: Katherine Dorrington