Cottage guardian
Paul West is heading to WA at last.

Paul West knows that he will love WA's South West, with its laid-back lifestyle, beautiful landscapes and deep appreciation for local produce raised in a clean, sustainable way.

But the young host of River Cottage Australia, as seen on Foxtel's LifeStyle channel, will have to wait a little longer to visit the region - something he's been dying to do since choosing Darwin over Perth during his nomadic travels a decade ago.

"I was hitchhiking and I reached a crossroads, where I could choose to make my way to Perth, or travel north, and I eventually chose to go up to Darwin," West said. "WA is undiscovered territory for me - I've been to every other Australian State - and people are always telling me I need to get over to the South West especially. Hopefully I'll get to at least sample some of the produce."

As the second season of River Cottage Australia airs on Foxtel on May 1, West will be in the air, ready to jet in for the Taste of Perth festival the next day. During his visit, the 30-year-old will rely on the advice of local growers in choosing what to cook for the eager foodies who will gather for the three-day event at Langley Park.

"I'll be embracing whatever beautiful produce is at its peak, taking my lead from those who know WA best," he said. "I'm hoping to see some exciting ingredients, and possibly even something I've never seen before but I'm really hoping I'll get to cook with some of the amazing seafood that I've heard about for so long."

A former chef, West was hand-picked 12 months ago by British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose River Cottage franchise has been a hit since 1997 for Channel 4 in the UK.

Known worldwide for his back-to-basics approach to sustainable living, Fearnley- Whittingstall knew he'd found his Australian counterpart when he first met West, staying on to help the young protege set up his own farm near the historic and picturesque village of Central Tilba on the NSW far south coast.

And a lot has changed since Fearnley-Whittingstall went back to England. West and his partner Alicia live on the Tilba property with her border collie cross, Digger.

Over the past year, they have transformed the 8ha former dairy property into a self-sufficient sustainable farm, with livestock and a flourishing fruit and vegetable garden.

"Filming will have just wrapped as I'm flying into Perth," West said.

"We've just come off the summer season, so we're now starting to plant some beautiful autumn vegetables, including broccoli, broad beans and garlic.

"I've been cooking a lot with yellowtail kingfish, because it's running hot at the moment, and slippery Jack mushrooms too.

"Everything is rich and autumnal, and I love cooking with beautiful chestnuts too.

"Once you get a taste for producing your own food, it's hard to go back. I would even go so far as to say it's addictive - but in a good way."

See Paul West in action at the Blanco Taste Kitchen, presented by Foxtel's LifeStyle FOOD channel.

The West Australian

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