From Fine Dining to Station Cooking

Host: Abingdon Downs Station
Written by Anita Steffan, Station Cook

When advertising for a station cook I had received an enquiry as to whether we would consider taking on a retired couple to share the position. Years ago I had an older travelling couple share the cook’s position for 6 months and it worked out a treat.  Given this couple were retired chefs, that was enough to convince me to give them a go. Needless to say I gained 5kgs…

You can see the ABC Landline story on this couple here.

A large part of our working lives has revolved around food.  We owned two fine dining restaurants in rural Scotland where we enjoyed preparing what nature had to offer in the way of locally caught game and fish particular to that area. The excellence of the produce and the remote location stood us in good stead. We could never have thought we would be using these abilities to purchase and prepare produce from a remote region fifty years later on the other side of the world.

Knocking 75 years of age we thought it was about time to find this lifestyle. This Australian lifestyle we so yearned to experience. Food and Station cooking as well as location is all one package, isn’t it? We had no expectations apart from cooking for a large group of people in a family environment for eight months.

A beautiful sunset in the middle of nowhere.

The small group of workers creating a family unit where respect, politeness, consideration and kindness go hand in hand with instilled station etiquette.

The sheer abundance of goodness puts “Paddock to Plate ” into a whole new perspective. Initially overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of meat to be utilised in meals four times a day is a long way from fine dining. However the pleasure of featuring fine produce far outweighs fancy plating. Unctuous aromatic stock from neck bones incomparable to watery supermarket offerings, bubbling pots of deep flavoured dripping to flavour steaks and vegetables, simmering pans of rich beef gravy, nutritious beef soup. The wholesome goodness of cattle country. 

Beautiful home made ciabatta bread.

We soon settled in discovering staff favourites, and it is our daily pleasure to see a bunch of freshly showered hungry young people looking forward to their well earned dinner.

Freshly made breakfast muffins.

One has to be adaptable as staff work plans change, always planning ahead and well organised, having plenty of goodies available in the freezer for the unexpected visitors. The logistics of food ordering, budgeting usage and delivery is a highly planned exercise as in any remote area. A well stocked dry goods store selection and fresh vegetables are high on the list of priorities.

Home grown sweet potato from our vegie garden.

Organic free-range eggs from our wonderful hens.

The occasional visitor looking for treats.

Do we enjoy it? Immensely. It has been the experience of our lifetime. We have been so blessed.

For us it is a job made in heaven, every day is special, the magical environment, being around a bunch of nice young happy people, breakfast outside as dawn breaks. The most awesome owners we have ever met. They welcomed us so kindly, they encouraged our participation, they have created this perfect place to live and work which brings so much happiness and contentment. The negative? We will have to go home.

Our domain.

Breakfast dining to watch the sun come up.

Making Sausages. Photo via ABC Landline.

Photo via ABC Landline.

Photo via ABC Landline.

Photo via ABC Landline.