“After many years abroad and getting access to the best produce the different destinations have to offer, nothing compares to the produce from the North-West Coast of Tasmania.” – Ben Milbourne
Pre-2012, Ben Milbourne, the teacher from Tassie’s north-west, expressed his passion for produce in the privacy of his own home, that was until he decided to throw his apron into the ring for a little TV cooking show called MasterChef Australia.
Since joining the 2012 competition, which his good friend Andy Allen won (Ben took fifth spot), he has gone on to feature on his own TV show Ben’s Menu, he’s paired up with mate Andy Allen for SBS’s Andy and Ben Eat Australia (in addition to culinary jaunts to Spain and Mexico, also with SBS), as well as penning books The Tasmanian Trail and Mexican Craving. He’s the patron of social enterprise Produce to the People and an ambassador for all things food in Tasmania, he’s husband to Sally and dad to their two children (is there more than one of him!?).
While he did not return to take up his spot at the front of the classroom, Ben’s heart is still in teaching. From his home in Tasmania’s North-West, Ben is in the throes of opening a restaurant and cookery school, as part of Devonport’s Living City redevelopment.
We caught up with Ben and fired 10 questions at him.
1 What does a perfect day in the Cradle Coast look like to you?
Having a family day; taking the kids for a bike ride along one of the coast’s bike tracks, hiking through bush trails and heading out for a bite to eat at one of the family friendly cafés, wineries or provedores. My Dad’s always been a keen fisherman (although he hardly catches anything!) so if it’s a crystal-clear day, taking the kids out on the boat with him is always a fantastic way to spend a day, then my wife would head out among the bush trails with her horse.
2 What do we do best on the North-West corner of the island?
It’s both a blessing and a curse that the people on the coast are humble. After many years abroad and getting access to the best produce the different destinations have to offer, nothing compares to the produce from the North-West Coast of Tasmania. North-West Coasters are not good at singing their own praises – and this is one of the things I love about our producers. But, with produce so amazing, we should be telling anyone who will listen. I see that as one of my jobs when I’m out promoting the state.
3 Where can we improve?
Promoting our corner of the state! Turn left off the Spirit for your holiday. We have all you need! We can also improve on how well we market ourselves as individuals. Everyone who resides on the coast should be talking up the coast’s virtues.
4 What would you like to see more of? And less of?
I’d love to see more people supporting cafes, clean and safe playgrounds and see some of the proposed bike paths come into fruition. It would also be good to see the general public have more faith in ourselves.
5 If you could swap your life for a day, who would you switch it with?
Collingwood Captain Scott Pendlebury who has a perfect job of captaining the best team in the AFL.
6 Where is the Cradle Coast’s most romantic location?
I love the quaint town of Stanley. I’ve been there with my wife and kids and it’s the perfect small town to have a weekend away. Hike The Nut, explore the quaint cottages, Highfield House and shops, eat at one of the great restaurants, play at the beach – Stanley has it all!
7 Would you like to share any hidden gems?
Almost too many to mention but the most enjoyable day I had recently is riding around the bike path through Hawley/Shearwater/Port Sorell.
8 What makes you most proud of being a Tasmanian?
I’m proud of my home state for the fresh produce, it’s clean, green image, spectacular landscapes and the friendly, down-to-earth people.
9 What do you miss most when you are away from home?
I’m away too often and I miss my family and local fresh produce the most.
10 You’re marketing the Cradle Coast in 30 seconds. What’s your elevator pitch?
Imagine a place with pristine air, towering rainforests, gushing waterfalls, beaches that run for kilometres and fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood and protein straight from the farmer to your plate. Too good to be true? That’s north-west Tasmania.