The Agrarian... meet Tasmania's old but new venue
agrarian adjective relating to Cultivated Land
In 2007 Severine and Rodney moved to Lachlan, Tasmania after purchasing an old schoolhouse on 5-acres of land in the beautiful Derwent Valley. Together the couple converted the old schoolhouse into their home and what is now known as
The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School, Tasmania’s first hands-on, farm-based cooking
Rodney had always dreamed of moving to the country and living off the land but it wasn’t until he was invited to Tasmania with his work at Australia Gourmet Traveller magazine that he found the perfect place. He fell in love with Tasmania on that trip.
We had been looking for property in Tasmania for two years before we moved. Initially we had found another property, however after trying to purchase it twice, we felt it just wasn’t meant to be. We were close to giving up when Rodney did one final search. By changing his search from 60 to 5 acres an old schoolhouse appeared. One of our friends who lives in Tasmania visited the property for us and said it was worth coming to take a look for ourselves. Rodney hopped on a plane and I remember anxiously waiting to hear what he thought. Soonafter we made an offer and purchased the school. We were ready to make the tree change and start our own cooking school. With our newborn son we moved into our new home in July in the middle of winter. It was definitely a shock to our system!
SCHOOL IS IN SESSION
The schoolhouse was built in 1887 and was the local Lachlan school until 1965 when it was converted into a family home. Listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register the property was in extremely good condition for its age. We made numerous cosmetic changes to suit our tastes and to make the cooking school areas as practical as possible.
For the kitchen we replaced the floorboards and installed a wood-fired oven, main bench area and appliances. The dining room needed a new bookshelf to hold the hundreds of cookbooks that Rodney has accumulated over the years as well as new carpet, curtains and fresh paint.
The large school windows were already present but we installed Magnetite over them for better insulation. We transformed one of our paddocks into a 1-acre vegetable garden and maintained the pre-existing flower and smaller vegetable gardens.
I always thought Rodney would be a good teacher as he is a calm and patient person. When we first opened our cooking school it was just Rodney and I. It was extremely busy especially with a newborn baby! Between setting up, hosting the classes and washing dishes we also had to mow the lawns, plant the seeds and weed the garden. Without any extended family support in Tasmania, after a year and a half of doing everything ourselves we were quickly burning out. We didn’t expect the classes to be so well received and we were adding more and more classes each week to keep up with the demand. In order to keep offering our classes at a consistently high level we decided we needed a team of people to help us move forward. Today, the cooking school has a team of 7.
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
We love the fresh air, the greenery and the way the valley changes during each season in Tasmania. Since moving here we have never wasted time sitting in traffic. Life is too short for that.
The next chapter in our journey began in 2015 after we fell in love with the beautiful Bronte Building at Willow Court in the small town of New Norfolk, just a 7-minute drive from the cooking school. Willow Court was originally the town’s mental asylum which pre-dates Port Arthur. The Bronte Building is quite spacious with large windows and high pressed metal ceilings. Most of the Willow Court site had fallen into disrepair since its closure in 2000 but we fitted it out to become The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery in June 2017.
The vision has always been to create a space where local and seasonal produce is celebrated. We want our diners to experience a true sense of place through the food they eat. Our ingredients, mostly sourced from the cooking school’s garden, need little adornment and we also support a community of local growers, farmers and fishermen.
In the kitchen, under the guidance of head chef Ali Currey-Voumard, our ingredients meet the power of our handcrafted wood-fired oven, grill and hot-smoker. Excess produce of the season is pickled, jammed, fermented, and cured in our dedicated preserving kitchen.
Our philosophy also extends to what is in your glass. Our beverage manager Jackson Duxbury takes care with our selections of wine, beer and spirits and we love to create our own syrups and fermented concoctions for cocktails and punches with left over produce. Nothing goes to waste.
In the dining room, we aim to deliver unpretentious, diner-oriented service, where everyone is made to feel welcome. A convivial atmosphere is fostered to ensure the dining experience matches the authenticity of the ingredients on the plate.
One of our favourite dishes at The Eatery is the fried sourdough potato cakes. The idea stemmed from the copious amounts of sourdough starter we always had left over. When used as a batter sourdough goes crisp and crunchy. I think there would be a riot if they were ever taken off the menu!