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Gourmet Farmer – Australia’s River Cottage?

1 September 2011 25 Comments

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall‘s River Cottage TV shows. I just can’t get enough of them!

Well, an Australian TV show in a very similar vein debuted on SBS last year, named Gourmet Farmer and starring Matthew Evans. Like Hugh, Matthew once made his living as a chef. He then worked as a food critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, before packing it all in to move to a 22-acre small farm near Cygnet, in Tasmania’s Huon Valley.

I really enjoyed the first series. It showed the trials and tribulations of trying to grow your own food and raise animals when you don’t have much of a clue what you’re doing (hehe!), and at the same time showcased some of the many small food producers from around Tasmania.

One of the highlights of the first series for me was when Matthew’s mum came to visit, and she asked him if he was planning to breed his new sows. “Nah,” he replied, “I was thinking of getting a boar in to do that.”

Gourmet Farmer comes across as a bit of a lifestyle show with magnificent scenery and delicious recipes, but it has more depth than most and touches on some important food issues – preserving heritage breeds, free-ranging animals, use of sow farrowing crates, the economics of family farming, the excessive restrictions of our “food safety” regulations, etc.

The new series started last week – you can still catch Episode 1 on the SBS web site if you missed it. The second episode will air on SBS tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 pm.

Here’s the promo video of Gourmet Farmer Series 2, to give you a taste of what’s coming up:

So what do you think? Is Gourmet Farmer Australia’s answer to River Cottage?


  • Andrew D said:

    I like the show but my issue has been he claims that he never saw or heard of River Cottage, with last years into etc, someone in teh production team had.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Andrew D: Yeah, I read on Matthew’s blog where he said he’d never seen or heard of River Cottage (this was after series 1 aired). I’m not sure how you could be a foodie-moving-to-a-smallholding and never have heard of River Cottage! He did say he was going to look it up, though, so I reckon he had definitely seen it by the time series 2 was filmed. I know (via someone who worked on series 1) that the production team was familiar with River Cottage, even though Matthew wasn’t.

    Nice blog, by the way! I’ve added you to my RSS reader.

  • farmer_liz said:

    thanks for the reminder, now I just have to remember again at 730pm….

  • Virginia said:

    Thanks for the reminder Darren. I enjoyed the last series, although he just doesn’t have the same pizazz as Hugh! (maybe it’s the hair).

    I have been a fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for years now, ever since an aussie in the UK sent me his first River Cottage book. Are you on the River Cottage mailing list? It is really interesting to see how they are growing the brand and the business. Cheers.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Virginia: Yeah, he’s not quite Hugh, but at least he’s ours! I am on the River Cottage mailing list – they seem to be going ahead in leaps and bounds, which is really good to see. He seems to be making a lot of people think more about their food choices.

  • Kate said:

    I love Gourmet Farmer & despite reading heaps of blogs, magazine & books on sustainable, edible gardening, permaculture & all related things, had not until very recently heard of River Cottage. Regional TV in WA is limited. I am assuming it is a TV programme?? Anyway have bought Gourmet Farmer DVD Series 1 for someone in our house for Father’s Day, just so I can watch it again. I found it interesting how he examines ethical food production & comes to term with the slaughter of his own animals. I want to raise chooks & wonder if I would be able to dispatch unwanted roosters using a “cone of death”, I think he called it.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Kate: Yep, River Cottage is a British TV show about a chef in the city packing it all in to take off to a country smallholding and get closer to the source of his food. Definitely see if you can borrow it from a library or perhaps buy it on DVD – you’ll love it.

  • Greenfumb said:

    Hugh F-W is my absolute hero, my dream is to live next door to him!! I must say the Gourmet Farmer is pretty good too, my husband keeps saying we should have a holiday in Tasmania since it started and I’m sure he’s not alone. Tourism Tas must love him!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Greenfumb: Yeah, it’s a really good promo for Tasmania! I’m sure they get a lot of foodies touring down there.

  • Donna said:

    I like the new show and its good to show the people who have not seen River Cottage in Oz how it can be done.. Im afraid I still like hugh! As you know he’s my idol and a dream of mine is to get to River Cottage one day! I think Hugh seems more down to earth! I could not see Mathew saving urine to make felt or pee around his property to scare off the foxes LOL…. Donna

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Donna: Yeah, they’re quite different! Hugh once even cooked and ate roadkill! I’d love to see the real River Cottage one day. Actually, I’d like to see Puggle Farm (Matthew’s property) too. In the meantime, the more of these kinds of shows on TV, the better!

  • Inner Pickle said:

    Am buying Adam the River Cottage series on DVD for Christmas. Although as he’s an avid reader of G-C I suspect I’ve just wrecked the surprise factor. See you soon I hope (well it’s actually Jessie I’m busting to meet) xxx

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Inner Pickle: Hopefully Adam already read this post and doesn’t come back to read comments! I’m sure he’ll love RC – we were watching it again last week. We’ll have to catch up soon.

  • Jennifer said:

    I love River Cottage and watch it regularly. I’m also a huge fan of Hugh FW and all his efforts to show a sustainable way of living. When I saw an ad for Gourmet Farmer I was excited, especially as I grew up in Tasmania, but after watching one episode I felt it was a complete rip off of River Cottage and haven’t watched another episode. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but I just felt it was trying too hard to be River Cottage Tasmania.

    What makes River Cottage so special, in my opinion, is Hugh’s obvious passion, and also Hugh’s sense of humour.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jennifer: I completely understand where you’re coming from, being a huge RC and HFW fan myself. The first series of Gourmet Farmer seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be like RC. The success of RC is entirely due to Hugh’s personality and enthusiasm, and that simply can’t be copied. I think the second series of Gourmet Farmer is finding its own formula and allowing Matthew to come through as himself, and I’m finding it much more enjoyable to watch.

  • Jennifer said:

    Hi Darren,

    Thanks for the feedback. Maybe I will check out an episode of the second series. 🙂

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jennifer: I’d be interested to hear back what you think!

  • farmer_liz said:

    Hi Darren, I was enjoying it more last year, the past few episodes of this season have been a bit boring and then I was horrified by the way he was looking after his poor cow. I wrote a post on how to prevent/cure mastitis as Matthew did not know what he was doing and the poor cow ended up dying, I didn’t want everyone to think that was normal, no well-looked after house cow should die of mastitis! I don’t mind when he goes to see other people’s farms and how they make food, but its not good to see someone neglecting their own animals and then just buying a new one when it dies! I’d be interested to know if anyone else had the same reaction. I won’t be watching anymore of it! Cheers, Liz

  • Darren (author) said:

    @farmer_liz: I had read your blog post before seeing that episode, so could see exactly what you were talking about. He was getting help from a vet, but like you said seemed to lack knowledge of other things to do to help the cow (unless they just didn’t show that stuff on the TV, which is possible). You’d think the vet would have had better advice. I truly hope he’s learned from the experience, and they’ve read up on mastitis and how to avoid and treat it.

  • Ben said:

    I love RC and GF, has anyone seen any house plans for the house in Gourmet farmer? it looks like it ticks all the box’s for what im looking to build in Dennmark Western Australia.

  • Tore said:

    I just discovered Gourmet Farmer some weeks ago and have been watching the DVDs in Norway. I also have all the River Cottage DVDs and have been a fan since it first aired on Discovery Channel here in Norway about ten years ago. I’m extremely surprised to read that Matthew have never seen or heard about River Cottage when you see how many similarities they got. In the second series Matthew even makes a pigeon dish that’s quite similar to one that Hugh makes in one of his first DVD set from the original River Cottage.

    But there is also (at least for me) some very obvious differences. Where Hugh in his first series take a more extreme approach to his move to a River Cottage (trying to live of the land and bartering), Matthews takes a more business like approach to his move from city to country which is just as interesting. I would also think that for many people wanting to what Hugh and Matthews have done, Matthews approach is more likely to work for most people in the long run.

    But to be honest I really don’t care if this is a rip off or not. I love Gourmet Farmer and River Cottage both and I think that the more shows and publicity smallholding, artisan food, slow food and ethical living/eating get the better. Is there any reason at all to not want as many people as possible get inspired to eat better?

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Tore: Like you, I’ll take all the shows in this style I can get! I do like it that there’s at least one Aussie show in the genre now.

  • Thandolwenkosi Moyo said:

    Hi please help me

    I was watching an episode this morning 12 am CAT, where a dog was tracking/sniffing for some black ingredient that was later used on a venison and salmon dish may i have the name of that ingredient. Was surprised by the price of USD 150.00 per lump.


  • Darren (author) said:

    @Thandolwenkosi Moyo: That would have been a truffle. They’re a fungus that grows underground, and are extremely highly sought after by chefs and foodies.

  • Thandolwenkosi Moyo said:

    Thanks for the info. Love the outdoor setting for the Gourmet Farmer!