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MasterChef winner Brent Draper’s new cooking journey through the Northern Rivers

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Northern Rivers resident Brent Draper was the winner of last year’s MasterChef Australia competition

MasterChef winner Brent Draper’s new cooking journey through the Northern Rivers

 

By Sarah Waters

Cooking good quality food doesn’t require a fancy kitchen, it can be done anywhere – in fact, it’s better if it’s cooked outside, says Brent Draper.

The Northern Rivers Times recently caught up with the 35-year-old, who became known to Australia as last year’s MasterChef winner.

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The likeable and down-to-earth personality won over Australia and the show’s judges with his natural talent for cooking rustic style, flavour-packed food over the coals.

Now, the former boilermaker turned chef, is on a mission to share his on-the-road cooking skills, tips and recipes via a ‘catch and cook’ content series.

Caravan manufacturer Jayco Australia have brought Brent onboard as their latest ‘Vanbassador’ where he basically gets to do what he loves most – travel and cook.

Brent, his wife Shonleigh and son Alfie are no strangers to van life.

Two years ago, they hit the road to do ‘a lap’ around Australia in a self-renovated bus with their first-born son Alfie.

They didn’t quite make it right around the country as Brent got the call to come back and compete in season 15 of MasterChef, last year, which he won.

Brent said life had become busy after the show, especially as it coincided with the birth of his second son Bowie.

His latest travel ventures, with the Jayco All-Terrain caravan in tow, will be shorter trips full of great outdoor cooking.

“We’re going to instead just do three – four day trips, get away on Friday, get back on Monday, go away on the long weekends and do a lot around the Northern Rivers area,” he said.

“Even though we live here, it’s just a different experience in a caravan and I love cooking outdoors on the fire.

“We spent a few days out at Misty Mountain in the new van, it was amazing to sit by the fire with views of Mt Burrell… we just love to explore this area, I think our trips will resonate with the average caravan owner.”

Brent Draper, his wife Shonleigh and their newest edition baby Bowie

Brent Draper, his wife Shonleigh and their newest edition baby Bowie will hit the road with their Jayco caravan in tow for a new ‘catch and cook’ content series.

During the family’s travels, Brent hopes to show people how to ‘step up’ the average camping meal without spending a fortune.

He will demonstrate how to cook good food over the fire, barbeque or gas burner.

“You don’t need a lot of money to create an amazing meal,” he said.

“And when you’re camping you’ve got an experience; you’ve got nature, and it just makes the food taste so much better.

“That’s why I tend to love the barbeque, cooking over fire, you know it’s a little bit more rustic, it’s not fine dining, but it’s just so yummy.

“And there’s something in us, like maybe primal, when we eat that charred food or get that flavour from charcoal or flame it just reignites something.”

As a self-described ‘mad waterman’ Brent has a great love for surfing and fishing (especially for mud crabs) and has spent much of his life outdoors.

It is exactly the type of lifestyle he wants his two young boys to experience but it has also helped to keep himself grounded.

Before he won last year’s season of MasterChef, he had previously competed in season 13 (in 2021) but withdrew halfway through the competition to prioritise his mental health.

His openness about leaving the competition due to stress and anxiety, exacerbated by the show, became a story in itself with many people thanking him for his honesty.

Brent has since become a mental health advocate and hopes to show people, and men in particular, that you can endure hard times and come out stronger on the other side.

He moved to the Northern Rivers a year ago, having previously lived in the Gold Coast, to enjoy a quieter pace of life.

“I do a lot of stuff in Melbourne, Sydney cooking and it’s just like a big concrete jungle and rat race,” he said.

“I always find coming back to a beach or a mountain – it just relieves the pressure.

“I think it’s in our DNA to be able to just kick the shoes off and walk on a beach and that instantly make us feel good.”

Despite Brent’s first attempt at MasterChef not going to plan, he hopes the winning comeback he made last year will inspire others.

“My life is an absolute roller coaster, full of adventure.

“One thing that I can say is, take that 30 seconds of courage and take that little risk.

“You never know what could happen.

“If I didn’t take that 30 seconds and sign up to a cooking show – even though I didn’t think I could cook very well – I’d still be in a job I didn’t like.”

To follow Brent Draper’s cooking journey and recipes follow him on Instagram: @brentdraper_ and also follow @jaycoaustralia on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

 

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Why Travel Should Be an Essential Human Activity

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Why Travel Should Be an Essential Human Activity

Why Travel Should Be an Essential Human Activity

 

In our increasingly globalised world, travel is often seen as a luxury, an indulgence reserved for the few who can afford the time and expense. However, travel holds intrinsic value beyond mere leisure, playing a crucial role in personal development, cultural understanding, and even mental health. Travel should be considered an essential human activity, integral to our development as individuals and as a society.

Expanding Perspectives

One of the most profound benefits of travel is its ability to expand personal perspectives. Encountering places that differ from our home environment challenges our preconceived notions about the world and our place within it. It introduces us to new ways of living, thinking, and interacting, which can lead to greater empathy and understanding across cultural divides. This broadening of perspectives is not just beneficial on a personal level but is essential in developing global cooperation and peace.

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Enhancing Adaptability and Problem-Solving Skills

Travel often involves navigating unexpected situations, whether it’s dealing with a language barrier, finding your way in a new city, or managing different currency systems. These challenges require adaptability and problem-solving skills. Over time, travellers develop a knack for thinking on their feet and adapting to new circumstances quickly and efficiently. These skills are incredibly valuable in both personal and professional contexts, making individuals more capable and resilient.

Boosting Mental Health

The mental health benefits of travel are significant and well-documented. Breaking away from the daily grind can reduce stress and prevent burnout, which is increasingly common in our fast-paced, always-connected lives. Moreover, exposure to natural beauty—such as mountains, beaches, and forests—has been shown to boost mood and improve mental health. The stimulation of new experiences can also reignite creativity and passion, which are often stifled by routine.

Developing Human Connections

Travel connects us with people from all walks of life. These connections can be profoundly enriching, offering insights into the lives of others and forging bonds that often last a lifetime. Whether it’s a conversation with a local artisan about their craft or a shared meal with fellow travellers, these interactions deepen our understanding of humanity and the threads that connect us, despite our apparent differences.

Supporting Economic Development

From a practical standpoint, travel is a significant economic driver in many parts of the world. It supports local economies by creating jobs, promoting local crafts and cuisines, and fostering a better understanding among different cultures. For many communities, tourism is a primary source of income and a vital part of their economic stability. Responsible travel can help distribute wealth more evenly and support sustainable development.

Educational Value

Travel is profoundly educational, not just in a formal sense but in the everyday learning that comes from being in a new place. This type of education is experiential and immersive, teaching history, geography, sociology, and economics in ways that books and classrooms cannot match. For children and adults alike, travel can complement traditional education, providing real-world contexts to theoretical knowledge.

Preserving Cultural Heritage

When done respectfully, travel can play a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage. Tourists’ interest often helps fund the maintenance of sites of historical and cultural significance, which might otherwise deteriorate. Moreover, by appreciating different cultures, travellers can contribute to a broader respect and understanding of these traditions and histories, ensuring they are valued and preserved for future generations.

The Necessity of Accessible Travel

Recognising the importance of travel should also lead us to consider accessibility. Ensuring that people from all economic backgrounds have the opportunity to travel is essential. Programs that facilitate youth travel, scholarships, and affordable travel options can help make the benefits of travel accessible to more people. Moreover, improving accessibility for travellers with disabilities is also crucial, ensuring that travel is truly inclusive.

Conclusion

Travel is much more than an escape from everyday life. It is a vital human activity that enriches our lives in countless ways, from personal growth and mental health to economic benefits and cultural preservation. As the world becomes more interconnected, the importance of travel as a tool for understanding and cooperation cannot be overstated. By promoting and facilitating travel, we can foster a more informed, connected, and empathetic world. Thus, travel should not only be considered essential but encouraged as a fundamental aspect of human activity.

 

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Top Romantic Getaways to Explore with Your Partner

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Top Romantic Getaways

Top Romantic Getaways to Explore with Your Partner

 

Planning a holiday with your partner can be an exciting endeavour, especially when it involves discovering new places together. From charming beach retreats to cosy mountain hideaways, the world is full of romantic destinations. Here are some of the most enchanting top romantic getaways to consider for your next couple’s escape with your partner.

Santorini, Greece

With its whitewashed buildings, stunning sunsets, and crystal-clear waters, Santorini is the epitome of romance. This island in the Aegean Sea offers breath taking views from cliff-top villages like Oia and Fira. Couples can enjoy a sunset cruise, indulge in gourmet dining with a view, or simply relax on the volcanic beaches. The unique blend of natural beauty and luxurious accommodations makes Santorini a top choice for a romantic getaway.

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Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city of serene beauty, making it perfect for couples who appreciate culture and tranquillity. The city is renowned for its classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, and traditional wooden houses. Strolling through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or enjoying the cherry blossoms in Maruyama Park can be magical experiences. For an unforgettable evening, dine at a riverside restaurant in Pontocho, where you can savour traditional Kyoto cuisine.

Paris, France

No list of romantic destinations would be complete without mentioning Paris. Known as the “City of Love,” Paris is ideal for couples looking to immerse themselves in a city rich with history, art, and romance. From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the charming cafes of Montmartre, there is no shortage of romantic spots. Couples can enjoy a leisurely boat ride on the Seine, visit the Louvre, or simply enjoy a croissant at a sidewalk cafe.

Venice, Italy

Venice is a fairy-tale city built on water, offering a unique romantic experience. The best way to explore is by getting lost in its labyrinth of alleys and canals. A gondola ride through these waterways, under the stone-arched bridges, makes for an iconic romantic activity. Be sure to visit Piazza San Marco, enjoy a coffee at the historic Caffè Florian, and admire the stunning views from the top of the Campanile.

Banff, Canada

For couples who love the great outdoors, Banff National Park in Alberta is a perfect destination. The park offers some of the world’s most breath taking wilderness scenery. Couples can explore its numerous lakes, such as the famous Lake Louise, and enjoy activities like hiking, skiing, or relaxing in natural hot springs. Staying in a cosy cabin or a luxurious resort, Banff provides a wonderful mix of adventure and relaxation.

Maldives

The Maldives is synonymous with luxury romantic travel. This tropical paradise offers stunning overwater bungalows, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear waters. Couples can snorkel or dive among vibrant coral reefs, enjoy spa treatments, or simply relax on the private deck of their villa. The Maldives is ideal for those looking to escape to a secluded, intimate environment.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a vibrant city that offers a mix of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes, making it an exciting destination for couples. You can visit the picturesque Cape Winelands, enjoy a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, or explore the historic Robben Island. The city’s stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife also provide plenty of opportunities for romantic outings.

Florence, Italy

Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is a city that oozes romance through its art, architecture, and ambiance. Couples can explore the Uffizi Gallery to see some of the world’s most famous artworks, stroll through the Boboli Gardens, or climb to the top of the Duomo for spectacular city views. The charming streets of Florence are perfect for evening walks followed by a dinner featuring Tuscan cuisine.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is a dream destination for adventurous couples. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps, it’s known for its adventure sports and stunning scenery. Couples can enjoy bungee jumping, jet boating, or skiing, depending on the season. For a more relaxed experience, take a scenic cruise on Lake Wakatipu or sample some of the excellent local wines.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, with its medieval architecture and picturesque canals, feels like a scene from a romantic movie. Couples can explore the city on a canal boat tour, sample Belgian chocolates and waffles, or simply wander through cobbled streets and market squares. The peaceful atmosphere of Bruges makes it a perfect getaway for couples seeking a slower-paced vacation.

Conclusion

Choosing the right destination can turn a simple holiday into an unforgettable romantic journey. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, culture, or just a change of scenery, these destinations offer a wealth of experiences that can cater to any couple’s interests. Remember, the most important part is enjoying the time spent with each other, discovering new places, and making memories that will last a lifetime.

 

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Lismore News

Saffin secures one-off grant for Thistles’ shower cubicles project

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Thistles Soccer Club shower cubicles

Saffin secures one-off grant for Thistles’ shower cubicles project

 

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has helped secure a one-off grant towards Lismore Thistles Soccer Club Incorporated’s project to construct and install six lockable shower cubicles at its East Lismore clubhouse.

Ms Saffin, who championed the club’s priority project, thanked NSW Minister for Sport Steve Kamper MP for approving the $15,710 (ex GST) grant under the NSW Government’s 2023-24 Project Support Program recently.

Ms Saffin said Thistles would engage a local contractor to build the six cubicles – three for home teams and three for away or visiting teams – promoting safe and diverse participation for girls and women.

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“The fact that the club owns this site rather than leases it from Lismore City Council has meant they do not qualify for infrastructure repairs or rebuilds under normal disaster funding arrangements,” Ms Saffin said.

“Thistles is a very proactive club but having its clubhouse and fields located in a low-lying area, has meant that it has had to wear the costs of fixing damage caused by the devastating floods of February and March 2022.

“This is one of those small sporting infrastructure projects which will make a big difference to players.

“I thank club officials for their innovative and inclusive approach, particularly Grants Officer Dr Pascal Scherrer.”

Lismore Thistles Soccer Club President Tina Cotroneo said: “This grant is going to make such a difference for players having their own space to shower and relax after a game in a more private environment!

“Our goal at Thistles is to provide a fun, safe and enjoyable sporting environment that encourages all members to reach their full potential.

“This grant supports our efforts to encourage inclusion, provide a safe sporting environment and foster the growing participation of women and girls in football.

“Thank you again to all involved in the process.”

 

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