River Cottage deal sustains Australia's TV cooking obsession

Foxtel has signed a deal with the British celebrity chef and sustainable farming campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to bring his iconic River Cottage series to Australia.

A local version of the British format will be produced for the Lifestyle Channel next year.

It will be titled River Cottage Australia and Fearnley-Whittingstall will serve as a mentor.

Casting is under way for an Australian host.

The series will follow the search for an "Aussie Hugh", testing "knowledge of food, enthusiasm for all things wild and local, and resilience in setting up a sustainable farm in the Australian countryside".

Fearnley-Whittingstall, 47, is best known as a chef and food journalist, but in recent years has become a major force in raising the profile of sustainable agriculture.

He has campaigned internationally for sustainable fishing and to raise awareness of food production, in particular a campaign in the UK designed to raise the standard of chicken breeding.

"Australia's a country I have long wanted to get to know," Fearnley-Whittingstall said.

"We've had some lovely Aussies visit us here at River Cottage in Devon and it's high time I repaid the compliment."

Fearnley-Whittingstall also said he was looking forward to tapping into Australia's "local, seasonal wild foods".

The series takes its name from a cottage on the grounds of Slape Manor, in Netherbury, Dorset.

The original cottage featured in three series presented by Fearnley-Whittingstall between 1998 and 2002, Escape to River Cottage, Return to River Cottage and River Cottage Forever.

Several subsequent series have been made using the River Cottage brand but filmed at other locations. A total of 10 series have been produced since 1998.

Lifestyle's group channel manager Duane Hatherly described River Cottage as a brand defining" program.

Foxtel has had enormous success with localising international formats, notably Project Runway Australia and Australia's Next Top Model.

They most recently announced an Australian adaptation of the Real Housewives format, Real Housewives of Australia.

Lifestyle Channel is already producing several local versions of high-profile international formats, including Come Dine With Me Australia, Selling Houses Australia and Location Location Loca-tion Australia.

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