The cooking school at the River Cottage Australia farm at Central Tilba is going strong with fans of the TV show coming from far and wide for culinary lessons.
In addition to learn cooking skills from host Paul West and food producer Kelly Eastwood, it is also a chance to check out the farm on the slopes of Gulaga Mountain and the beautiful surrounds.
Scott and Corrie Basman of Canberra were among the recent students at the cooking school, but are no strangers to the area as they holiday at nearby Mystery Bay each Christmas.
"We’ve watched all the shows and whole family loves it,” Scott said. “We came down for the experience, to see the farm and meet Paul.”
“We’ve loved – it’s been an absolute ball,” Corrie said.
The cooking school is run by leading independent television production company KEO Australia that also produces the television series that airs on the Lifestyle Food channel on Foxtel.
The small group classes feature recipes from the television series and the River Cottage Australia Cookbook.
While the classes with Paul West are obviously the most popular, the other instructors are also locals that appear regularly on the show.
Leading the way, and being instructor for many of the classes is River Cottage food producer Kelly Eastwood, who focuses on River Cottage recipes during her lessons.
Kelly’s love of ‘farm to fork’ eating began early in her career when she trained at the internationally renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens in Ireland. After two series working on River Cottage Australia with Paul, her experience and technique in developing and teaching delicious recipes that encapsulate the values of the show is second to none.
Curiously, it was in the well-equipped galleys of Superyachts where her culinary career took off, travelling the world for 14 years as the private chef to some of the world’s most influential people.
Before joining the River Cottage family and returning to what she describes as her culinary home, Kelly worked on major television cooking shows including Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules, Better Homes and Gardens, The Great Australian Bake Off and Destination Flavour. She is also a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School.
In 2014 Keo Films Australia asked her to establish and run the River Cottage Australia Cookery School, which perfectly combines her passion for food with her natural talent for teaching.
The other instructors are mobile butcher Matt Christison and CWA judge and pastry chef Nelleke Gorton, both from the Bega area, are soon going to be joined by cheese maker Erica Dibden from the ABC Cheese Factory and Tilba Real Milk, located just down the road.
Matt focuses on butchery and meat, while Nelleke specialises in baked goods, and obviously Erica will be offering cheese making classes.
Host Paul also takes groups on a behind the scenes farm tour to meet the many farm characters, picks vegetables from the kitchen garden and introduces them to much-loved, four-legged mate, Digger.
The KEO-owned format, River Cottage Australia commenced with UK television host and environmental advocate, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall travelling to Australia bringing to fruition his experiment in downshifting and the message of sustainability, and handing the baton to his Australian counterpart – former Tasmanian chef, Paul West.
River Cottage Australia is currently in the middle of Series 4 and can be viewed on the Lifestyle Food channel on Foxtel on Tuesday nights at 8.30pm.
To sign up for the River Cottage Australia Cooking School 2016, registration is now open at: www.keofilms.com.au/cook