Matthew Evans: from big city restaurant critic to local farmer »
The tale of The Gourmet Farmer in bite-sized chunks
By Kerry Scambler
The SBS TV series Gourmet Farmer introduced Matthew Evans to the viewing public as he transformed from big city food critic to foodie farmer, demonstrating live “How hard can it be?” The dirty chef explores the same story, but in a more detailed, inspiring and conversational way.
On TV we watched over three series as Matthew and family moved to Puggle Farm, and the embedding of this lanky foodie into the Tasmanian culinary landscape began.
Along the way we gained an insight into just how hard it can actually be when you don’t really know much about what you’re jumping into. But we also saw the satisfying rewards of moving closer to the source of your food; in his case, the closest you can get.
The dirty chef takes us through this journey in written form, and here Matthew’s style is far more relaxed and natural. The TV series, whilst thoroughly enjoyable, felt a little stilted at times to me, but who could blame him? Having cameras and a film crew constantly around your home must have been quite difficult at times – and after all, he is a food writer, not a professional actor.
So what’s good about The dirty chef?
Highly recommended as one of the most relaxing, enjoyable and easy to read books I’ve picked up in a long time. It was especially so over the summer break with the short chapters making it easy to delve into.
This is not a strictly chronological relating of Matthew’s leaving Sydney and setting up in the island state with dates and times. It’s far more interesting than that. Each chapter tells a story or stories loosely themed around a particular food object – eg milk, venison, fish, cherries etc. – and ends with a recipe.
It is at times entertaining, enlightening, sad and joyful and seems to be an honest appraisal of the transition from big city living to small holding farming.
Writing the book provided Matthew with the chance to reflect more deeply on the move and has provided us perhaps with the chance to reflect on our own lives. As he says “This thing is, and I say this as much out of astonishment as out of any kind of expertise, if a novice like me can grow and rear things with more taste, more depth, more of the ingredient’s flavour in it, simply by giving it a crack, then anybody can."
For Tasmanians like me, it’s also a reminder of just how much we sometimes take for granted. The long held and widespread Tasmanian tradition of growing veggies in the backyard that seems so normal to us, simply isn’t done in many of Australia's bigger cities. Our climate –with distinct and relatively benign seasons – ripens fruit to perfection and develops intense flavours, as is also evidenced in our wines.
And a personal favourite is being able to drive to a nearby fishing spot, and throw in a line to catch 'a feed' of fresh fish, as we did over the break.
In December 2015, I gathered with many of Hobart's foodies as Matthew Evans launched a fabulous food book, Tasmania's Table II by Paul County. As Matthew was speaking passionately about the state's culinary scene, it struck me how more natural and relaxed he seemed than those first few times I encountered him selling at the markets and at various events.
Perhaps it's living in such a beautiful place and becoming more confident with your farming and food life after six years or more, but whatever the process, it was evident that the person speaking to me across the room really was the same one speaking to me from the pages of The dirty chef – and I liked him.
The dirty chef by Matthew Evans is published by Allen & Unwin (Sydney, NSW, 2013; sc, 320pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$29.99.
The publishers advise the book is out of print in January 2016, but booko.com says it’s still available online as hard copy and as an e-book, and it's around in many good bookstores. Enjoy.
- Huon and Channel (TAS)
To see our recommendations, ratings and reviews you must be a logged-in subscriber.
To subscribe please enter your email address in the "Subscribe Now - it's Free" box on the right and click the "Join" button, or fill in this form >