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Five Minutes With: Paul West

The affable host of River Cottage Australia talks to MiNDFOOD about his passion for life on the farm, keeping food local and organic, and the importance of sitting down to a good meal with friends and family.

Five Minutes With: Paul West

What’s your food philosophy?

My personal philosophy is if you have good ingredients, you don’t need to do a lot. Nature has created this perfect flavour. You don’t want to dehydrate it and then foam it and turn it into a smoke then condense it then run it through a cooler, turn it into a powder and put it into a mould that looks like an apple. If it’s a good apple, then it’s a good apple.

How did growing up in a small town influence how you think about food?

It’s crucial to be part of a community. Ironically, our online communities are growing, but our physical communities are shrinking. Growing up, everything we bought was from someone we knew. Now it’s so impersonal. You can buy all your food without having to talk to another person. Throughout history, food has been connected with people, community and the rituals around that. Our emotional evolution revolves around food and connection; now it’s being removed. No wonder we’re finding this void within ourselves, this unsatisfiable need to consume. No matter how much you buy, you can’t be totally satisfied. Everyone was once satisfied by a nutritious meal and good company.

Why River Cottage?

Whenever you tell people what they need to do, people glaze over. What I’m grateful for is that the message is there within River Cottage, but it’s like, “look how much fun I’m having”. Presenting it with an aspirational quality, and giving people mechanisms they can use to do things without being told to do something. I’m trying to do it in a non-judgemental way. The majority of food media out there is saying, “unless you’re doing it as a competitive sport, you may as well not do it”. If you stuff up a cake at home, you eat it. You don’t throw it in a bin and weep at the camera. I try to keep food celebratory, simple, ingredient driven, and sharable.

What do you love about cooking?

I work hard to grow food and support other growers in my community. Growing and making – you’re actually producing something.

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