I have the privilege and honour of being guest chef for the second block of 3 episodes of a new TV Series called Desert Kitchen, destined at first for screening on NITV.
Here’s an account of my adventures – week one. I will do one more post for each week and episode filmed.
It was with great anticipation that I landed at Uluru, and was met by Chris Hobart, Executive Producer of NG Media, my hosts for the next 3 weeks. After a quick stop at the petrol station for some snacks we headed out past Uluru, always a spiritual feeling being near that rock. After passing Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) on the right we diverted off the main road on to a (apparently) “Telstra” track, essentially a short cut south west towards the tri-state border and our destination Wingellina. Quite a ride indeed, it was a wake up call to real outback travel with some serious corrugations and loads of crashing through huge muddy puddles on the track from the recent rains. Disconcerting fun for a few seconds each time waiting for the windscreen wipers to clear the sheets of red ochre coloured water from the windscreen, so we could actually see the next twist or turn in the track. We surprised 4 bush turkeys close to the road at one point and it was a treat to see them for the first time, bank away on long wings into the distance, knowing that they were to be on our menu for the first episode. We made good time and after 4 1/2 hours (with a short break half way) we arrived at the NG Media headquarters, a couple of dingoes and a solitary camel being the only other life we saw along the way.
Day 2 – was settling in and meeting the crew at NG and having a briefing of the weeks shooting schedule. Quite chilly, totally overcast and scattered rain.
Day 3 – was travelling about an hour further west to Blackstone Community where we met Magdalene and Sabina, local Yarnangu ladies who are working with us on these three episodes both behind and in front of the cameras. We filmed shopping in the local store for ingredients, and it was great to see how our director Phil Williams is so passionate and patient with the locals, training on the run, as we went captured the shopping scenes.
Day – 4 – still overcast and cold with occasional showers. We set out early afternoon with Stuart one of the locals who is a keen hunter, in two “troopies” ( 4WD’s with bench seats in the back) and his 22 Magnum rifle. Hours and hours of driving through some wonderful bush tracks and beautiful desert landscapes, all flushed with green of course in the winter. Not one bush turkey sighted!!!
Day –5 – exactly the same as the previous day. Stuart reckons they lay low in wetter weather, we need some sunshine !!
Day – 6 – weather had only improved a little as we set out again. This would be our last ditch effort, otherwise it would be cooking up a chicken from the local store instead. (We had already filmed a segment Monday shopping for a chicken, as a contingency!). Luck was with us, and barely 10 k out of Wingellina we spotted two Bush Turkey take off on our left and sail off into the bush. The hunt was on!! We back tracked a little before going off road and skirted in a wide arc through virgin bush toward where Stuart expected them to have landed. Sure enough he spotted them in open spinifex country. these beautiful speckled tawny birds stand quite tall. I know my eyesight is not the greatest, but I had not a clue where the birds actually were as Stuart aimed out of the car window after we pulled up, resting the barrel on the rear view mirror. One shot and a bird down from easily 150 – 200 metres, as its partner took frantically to the skies again. What a shot – amazing!! After picking up the beautiful very dead bird, we set off for the other one, but was unable to find it. At least we had one for the pot! A triumphant return home.
Day 7 – We travelled with the big truck which carries the cooking bench and all equipment, fridge, generator etc. with the two troopies full of crew, cameras and lighting back 15 mins. past Blackstone to “Singing Rocks”, a sacred sight, where we set up the Desert Kitchen bench in a fabulous setting, with some artworks on the rocks behind us. The rocks there are very high in iron ore & nickel (I think) and they are amazing, a beautiful colour and sound just like metal when you throw one on to another.!! Finally got into the filming after hours of set up time – framing the shots and pans, focus, lighting, white balance checks, sound checks etc.etc., quite a job for Phil with 5 different cameras & three lapel mikes to think about. Firstly I got Nara (our Aboriginal host of the series) and Magdalene (local cultural adviser) into the vegetable prep while I plucked and gutted the turkey, which I found easier than plucking wild duck actually, because I think, of the much larger feathers. Was amazed to find a huge rock hard lump in the guts, as big as my fist, which I found was the stomach, full of stones, I guess to grind down the seeds/foods etc. Next we filmed the braising of the duck in the orange lemon myrtle sauce. As a side dish, we did a combination of 2 min. noodles (sold in all the outback stores) and grated potato, a bit like a Rosti. By the time the turkey was actually tender it was quite dark, and after a complete rework of the lighting etc. we shot the closing scene. Everyone loved the dish, the flavour of the bird a very rich gamey taste was complimented by the fruity spicy glaze. After a difficult pack up in the dark hauling equipment over very rocky ground, it was 11.00pm before we finally got back into Wingellina – end of the first episode!!! In all, a huge effort from many people and loads of travel to get probably 15 mins of TV, and that’s without any post editing, graphics, animation etc., all to be done later at NG, after my return home.
Awesome week, after a Sunday rest, we truck off to Wanarn and a Camel hunt