Rodney Dunn, The Agrarian Kitchen

posted on: Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Agrarian Kitchen was once an old school house, but is now far more chic! 

Rodney Dunn followed by chooks at the Agrarian Kitchen near Hobart 

'Sorry mate, but that sounds like crap.'

Rodney Dunn who owns the seasonal cooking school, The Agrarian Kitchen, near Hobart found himself on a food event panel seated next to CEOs of agri-businesses and industrial food companies. He had been quietly wondering exactly why he had been invited onto the panel. That was, however, until he was compelled to speak out: a fellow panellist had just told the crowd that the latest trend in food was creating ready-made vegetables, such as potatoes, baked with electric pulses then pre-packaged.

'That sounds like crap,' he reiterated. 

'And they're all thinking it,' he said pointing to the crowd. 'If you want to taste a real potato, come to my place and we'll cook it properly!'

Rodney relayed this anecdote to me as he showed me around the grounds of his amazing cooking school in Tasmania where they grow over 95% of the produce for their classes, a task which involves planning up to six months ahead. The school and grounds are both peaceful and Gourmet Traveller-chic which is no surprise considering he was once the food editor of the publication.  

'I definitely don't think I'll be invited back!' he chuckled.

I hardly think that matters seeing as The Agrarian Kitchen is perpetually booked out and attracts the likes of Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander each year for the courses in sourdough making, cooking with truffles and the 'Agrarian Experience' which boasts deliciousness like potato gnocchi with nettles and asparagus, and rhubarb mille feuille.  The courses are about elegant food and the menus are always seasonal, but the bonus is Rodney's passion for demystifying the steps required to do things yourself.

A mountain of dried mint, lemon balm and lavender ready to be made into tea

'Big companies want us to think that things are really hard,' he said. 'We sometimes make a pannacotta in The Agrarian Experience Class and people are genuinely shocked at how easy it is to do. Things are so easy if you are shown how!'

He said that moving with his partner Severine from Sydney to Lachlan, near Hobart, in Tasmania to launch their cooking school was the perfect move.

'The perception is that Tassie is backwards, and I'm glad it is. People here have preserved a lot of stuff that's been lost. People here know how to do things and you don't have to look too far for someone to teach you.'

Some of those things that Rodney now teaches others include how to dry herbs for tea, how to brew craft beer from hops, how to make sourdough bread over 48 hours, how to preserve summer fruits, how to smoke sausages and how to pluck poultry. And after the excitement, each class ends with sitting down to enjoy a divine meal with even better wine.

And thankfully, that sounds far from crap!

Image credits: Glenn Turnham and Virgin Australia Magazine

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