Talking Travel With River Cottage Australia’s Paul West

9 November 2016
Read Time: 3.3 mins

He has made a name for himself as the affable host of River Cottage Australia. A former chef-turned TV presenter, Paul West has become the latest poster boy for sustainable farming, seasonal eating and organic produce.

Cutting his teeth at Melbourne’s renowned Vue de Monde restaurant, the hardcore foodie decided to pursue his passion for sustainability and made the move to Tasmania in pursuit of a simpler life – a decision that would later see him earmarked by producers for the Australian version of the hit British TV series. Now in its fourth season, the 'Aussie Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall' is a firm fixture on our screens.

Paul West loves the great outdoors and getting away from civilisation.

What’s your favourite holiday?

Somewhere remote with deep forests, big skies, clean water, no shops and no phone reception. Barrington Tops National Park in New South Wales, South West Tasmania, the Southern Forests in Western Australia, the Daintree in Queensland and Croajingolong National Park in Victoria have all been memorable favourites.

What’s your carry-on essential?

A good book. It's a rarity to have a few hours sitting still, so I like to use time in the air to wade through some decent literature. A story that really gets its hooks into you can turn hours into minutes and the next thing you know, you're on the ground!

How do you beat jet lag?

I try to get synced to the destination time as soon as I get on the plane. Also, I stay hydrated and get out for some fresh air when I arrive.

What’s your favourite city?

Newcastle, New South Wales. I spent my formative years as a young adult living there. It has countless top-quality beaches, beautiful civic spaces, a vibrant cultural and dining scene and it's compact and accessible.

Newcastle has stunning beaches. Picture: Getty Images

Where was your most favourite meal?

In a gutter in Grenoble, France. My partner and I were staying in Lyon on holiday and saw that the final competitive stage of the 2011 Tour de France was being held in Grenoble, which is an hour away by train. Now I'm not a crazed cycling nut, but I did know that Cadel Evans had a very strong chance of claiming victory on this stage, so the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Lyon is famous for the incredible Paul Bocuse food hall, a vault of France's finest culinary wares. So we went and stocked up on all the cheese, wine, terrine, pate and bread that we could fit in a backpack and then hopped on a train. As it was a time-trial event, we could pick one spot and watch riders go past all day. So we found a shady patch beside the road, sat in the gutter and stuffed ourselves as the world’s best cyclists pumped past a metre away from us.

Cadel Evans went on to put in a superhuman performance in that stage to claim the yellow jersey and to become the first Australian to win the Tour de France!

Adventure or luxury?

Come on, what do you think? You won't find me pool-side at a luxury resort – I can relax at home. When I do get time to travel, I make sure that I head off somewhere away from the crowds, where I can immerse myself in the natural beauty of the world – walking, camping and catching waves.

What’s the essential ingredient for a good trip?

An element of the unknown. If you've researched every last detail of your trip, there's no sense of discovery when travelling. You've already read all the TripAdvisor reviews and seen everyone else's photos.

What’s your top travel tip?

Keep an open mind. I'm all for planning a trip but in my experience the best adventures usually come from throwing the itinerary out the window and living on your wits.

The Ironbound Range looms behind a lagoon in South West Tasmania. Picture: Getty Images

What’s your biggest packing mistake?

A bottle of French Champagne for an eight-day, 100-kilometre bush walk in remote South Western Tassie. I schlepped that two-kilogram bottle over mountain ranges, through swamps and along wild, windswept beaches. The idea was to drink it at our New Year's Eve campsite at Deadman's Cove (it's a real place, look it up) but when the day came, everyone was so stuffed from climbing up and over the Ironbound range that we all fell asleep at 7pm. Instead, I carried it for another four days and when we finally returned to civilisation and showers in Hobart, it was put on ice and used to toast our adventure!

Where do you want to go next?

South Island, New Zealand. The mountains, the rivers, the ocean – it looks like paradise on Earth, plus it's only a stone’s throw away over the ditch. I'm just worried that I won't come back.

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Paul Ewart

Originally from the UK, Paul has lived and worked in three different continents: from the heady metropolis of Dubai, to North America and - as of six years ago - Sydney, Australia, a place he now calls home. His travel career spans 13 years across various print and digital outlets. Until recently, he worked as a senior TV producer for Channel 7. Now, he's back doing what he does best: travelling.