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Chef mates share their love of West Aussie food and travel

Standing on the back of a luxurious boat anchored in a Rottnest bay, self-described adventurer James Viles’ eyes light up as he describes the journey he is days away from beginning.

The NSW-based chef and his mate, Bib & Tucker executive chef and Goody Two’s co-owner Scott Bridger, are spending the entire day entertaining and cooking up a feast for a group of journalists keen to get out of their offices to soak up some WA sunshine.

Anchored at Rottnest.Anchored at Rottnest.
Camera IconAnchored at Rottnest.Picture: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian

Even though, technically, we’re all working, it’s actually a lot of fun. Well, how could it not be? We’re on a multimillion-dollar boat on a perfect day, surrounded by sparkling ocean on one side and an island on the other. As Scott says: “There are worse things in life.” Indeed.

James and I are waxing lyrical about how wonderful life can be when, out of the blue, he mentions that he is about to start travelling around Australia as part of research for his new book.

“It’s about 8500km by car. I’ll circumnavigate Tasmania and Flinders Island,” he says.

He’ll head to Melbourne, across to Adelaide and then “through the guts of Australia up into Alice Springs, sort of taking all dirt roads”.

Mates Scott Bridger, left, and James Viles chill out after catching crayfish for lunch.Mates Scott Bridger, left, and James Viles chill out after catching crayfish for lunch.
Camera IconMates Scott Bridger, left, and James Viles chill out after catching crayfish for lunch.Picture: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian

“I’ll be visiting a lot of communities and growers and suppliers and doing a lot of hunting. We sort of had one goal in mind and that was to not only talk about our country but to also showcase to people the lengths these farmers and growers and fishermen go to to get food on our table in these very, very remote, isolated areas.

“It’s a pretty epic trip that goes all the way to Cape York Peninsula.”

As a born-and-bred West Aussie whose proud of our producers, I try to conceal my disappointment that this great State is not on his itinerary. But it’s a fleeting feeling because James quickly explains: “WA is on the next run.”

“At the moment it’s just about two months through the middle, and then after Christmas we’ll probably do from the top all the way back down and around,” the restaurateur says.

The chefs prepare a feast that includes freshly caught crayfish.The chefs prepare a feast that includes freshly caught crayfish.
Camera IconThe chefs prepare a feast that includes freshly caught crayfish.Picture: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian
NSW chef James Viles, left, and WA chef Scott Bridger check out the freshly caught crayfish at Rottnest.NSW chef James Viles, left, and WA chef Scott Bridger check out the freshly caught crayfish at Rottnest.
Camera IconNSW chef James Viles, left, and WA chef Scott Bridger check out the freshly caught crayfish at Rottnest.Picture: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian

So what makes this country so great? James believes it’s the diversity: “We’re very lucky it’s such a diverse country and it’s full of food.”

“I spent six years in the Middle East and everything I used (in the kitchen) was imported, yet everything that I use over here is from this country — and there’s just an abundance of it. And I think it’s important we know where it’s from and that we look after it, too. That’s why I’m doing this trip.”

Foraging with Scott Bridger on the Swan River in Fremantle.Foraging with Scott Bridger on the Swan River in Fremantle.
Camera IconForaging with Scott Bridger on the Swan River in Fremantle.Picture: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian

Scott, fresh from swimming out to search for fresh crayfish for our lunch, also worked overseas and says that although he learnt so much during his travels, it’s great to be home in Fremantle to raise his family.

This is the beauty of travel — it enables us to learn about other people’s cultures and their passion for using simple ingredients to cook traditional dishes based on recipes handed down through generations. It also makes us appreciate how lucky we are to live in a country of such abundance.

Foraging with Scott Bridger.Foraging with Scott Bridger.
Camera IconForaging with Scott Bridger.Picture: Grace Millimaci/The West Australian

“Is it important for us to travel? Oh, bloody oath. But we should be travelling in our own country before we travel to any other country,” James says.

“Other countries are great, but get amongst it and get into your own country — it’s awesome isn’t it?”

Yes, James, it certainly is. And, just like that, I look around as we head back to Fremantle and view this place with new eyes.

As we drive to a quiet street on the Swan River foreshore I feel like a tourist in my own town. Scott shows us how to forage for native ingredients that the two chefs will use in our dinner. How did I not know about this place?

“WA is amazing,” James says.

“I love WA. I was saying to Scott that I could certainly live in somewhere like Fremantle or Margs. I love Margaret River, too.

“I’m looking forward to doing this whole coastline by car, too. Next year.”

James Viles and Scott Bridger are ambassadors for Electrolux.

Grace Millimaci was a guest of Electrolux. They have not seen or approved this story.

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