Ian Parmenter tells ‘almost’ all
Fourteen books, 450 episodes of TV hit Consuming Passions, thousands of recipes and multiple awards later, Ian Parmenter shows no sign of slowing down. Now loving his life on the land in Margaret River, Ian shares with us his passion for slow, but simple, food and the need to pass on the importance of our agricultural heritage.
I was born in London and moved with my family to Brussels when I was nine. I just fell in love with the food and enjoyed my Montessori schooling until our return to the UK when I was nearly 12. I attended the second oldest English public school, King’s School, Rochester. And hated it. I would cook in the chemistry laboratory using a Bunsen burner. I couldn’t wait to get out.
My first job was making false teeth for my next-door neighbour. Vocational guidance indicated that I would fare better in publishing, advertising or journalism, so I started work in magazines. In 1971 I emigrated with my then partner, to Australia. We wanted a small city and so chose Perth. It came as a shock. There were no outdoor eateries and you couldn’t buy good food in any of the shops. I worked in public relations, before moving to the ABC where I completed a producer’s course and subsequently became a TV producer/director, which I was from 1973 to 1994.
In 1991 the ABC was looking for a show to replace Peter-Russell Clarke’s Come and get it. I didn’t want to front the camera, but found myself making bread in a pilot for Consuming Passions. Although I was still producing and directing, this was the start of seven years of filming in our own kitchen, with my partner Ann assisting with recipe development, research, proofreading, set design and keeping me reasonably sane. I started writing books – which now total 14 in all - and established a company, Consuming Passions Pty Ltd.
In 1996, after I won an international award for the show, I suggested to ABC bosses that we should make a half-hour food series, Tasting Australia, along the lines of ‘Gardening Australia’ .They laughed, asking “who would want to watch that much cooking,” So I created the international Tasting Australia Festival held in South Australia – and loved being involved from 1997 until earlier this year.
I had made a program with Ray Charles at Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River and Ann and I thought it would be great to have a country property. So we bought a run-down 13-acre property with a cottage. Since then we have planted more than1,000 trees and shrubs. In 1994 we were talked into planting grapes and enjoyed our first harvest in 1997. It became harder and harder to be back home in Fremantle, so we built a house and moved here permanently in 1999. The first six months were a bit unsettling for me, but now I love it.
A classic day means checking emails first thing, then a trip to town to do the banking, get newspapers, visit one of the fabulous coffee shops and catch up with friends. Then it’s back home to start writing or develop some new recipes. In the evening I cook for both of us. No, I don’t really exercise unless you count walking to the car and chewing! I’m not really that bad. I do go for walks.
I’ve also started working on my next book which will be a tell-all with lots of dirt, fun, and silly stories. Well, maybe it’s a ‘Tell almost all’ – the one I promised myself I wouldn’t write while my parents were alive.
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