The series is a local version of the UK River Cottage series, hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and will be produced by ITV Studios Australia.
29-year-old Paul West was born in Murrurundi, a small town in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales and now lives in South Arm, Tasmania. A qualified chef, he has worked in all areas of food production from a volunteer organic fruiterer to the country’s top restaurant, Vue De Monde. He also holds a certificate in Permaculture Design.
The home of River Cottage is located in Central Tilba on the New South Wales south coast. An area known for its thriving dairy industry, it offers an abundance of local and sustainable produce and is in close proximity to the ocean, fresh water lakes and forested mountains.
River Cottage, a 1930s weatherboard house on a former dairy farm, lies in the fertile shadow of Mount Dromedary or ‘Gulaga’ (Mother Mountain), sacred to the Yuin people.
West said: “I am humbled and incredibly honoured to be offered this role. To be honest, it really hadn’t sunk in until I was walking down the steps of River Cottage last week, cameras rolling for the first time, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was walking up the drive, waving at me.
“It was quite overwhelming meeting the man himself. I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to spend time with Hugh this past week – he’s the penultimate professional, a keen wit, lover of strong cups of tea and confidently walks the walk that he so eloquently talks.
“I know that I could never fill Hugh’s shoes, and luckily I don’t have to – because he’s still wearing them. We share the same vision and passion for food and its production on a local, regional and national level. I hope that through River Cottage Australia I can educate and empower people to make strong decisions in relation to the food they buy and the meals they prepare.
“I know I have a lot of expectations to live up to, and I am determined to not only meet those expectations, but exceed them.”
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who travelled to Australia for the first time last week to film episode 1 and mentor Paul, said: “I’ve had such a great time in Tilba filming River Cottage Australia. It’s a very special place that feels rich with possibilities and culinary adventures – I packed more than my fair share in while I was there.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to hand over the River Cottage baton to Paul. He’s a genuine guy and there’s no doubt he wants to make a real contribution to the local community, and to connect with the land around him – both the wild mountains and fertile pastures. He’s wide eyed and open to all the good things this area has to offer. I love his enthusiasm and readiness to get stuck in, come what may.
“I can’t wait to come back in a few months when Paul’s settled in. No doubt he’ll have some great stories to tell and some fabulous ingredients to share with me – many of them all his own work. Once again, I’ll be happy to take things as they come… as long as I catch the biggest fish.”
Hannah Barnes, LifeStyle channels Head of Commissioning and Programming, said: “The River Cottage brand has and continues to be hugely successful for The LifeStyle Channel. It’s a massive coup to have secured the first international franchise of the series and bring Hugh out to Australia for the first time.
“The timing couldn’t be more perfect to bring River Cottage and its way of life to Australia, with the issues of sustainability and life change more relevant to Australians than ever before. It’s about appreciating everything that this country has to offer.”