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A Taste of Kakadu

As a young kid Clayton Donovan was a rat-bag, a self-confessed “obnoxious, naughty boy”.

By Tamara Howie

But giving his mum grief as a four-year-old set him on a path for his future.

“I was giving my Mum a hard time one day, and my Aunty Jess turned around and said ‘he’s driving you crazy, let’s take him outside and show him some cultural food’,”  he says.

“She showed me jaaning (Gumbaynggir for wattle tree), some berries and wild carrots and native foods you could find in the bush – I loved it so much.”

Donovan grew up on Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung land in NSW, and is now the star of ABC’s Wild Kitchen, and owner of the restaurant Jaaning Tree.

He says the key for anyone wanting to use bush food in the kitchen is knowledge.

“The foundations of it all is knowledge and research,” he says.

“Everyone is lucky they’ve got Google, so go online, read books, and understand what the ingredient is first so you have more of a depth of understanding before you start cooking with it.”

Donovan will be in the Top End for A Taste of Kakadu – an Indigenous cuisine festival in the heart of the national park.

“I want to learn a bit of the culture and see the country and landscape and meet some elders and learn some stories,” he says.

The Indigenous cuisine festival began last year to showcase Kakadu’s iconic produce.Territory locals Ben Tyler and Kylie-Lee Bradford launched Kakadu Kitchen at the inaugural event and this year they’ll be running bush tucker tasting walks along Jim Jim Creek and supporting the Kakadu Billabong Safari Camp for an exclusive camping and bush tucker experience.

“(We’ll focus) on Bininj An-meh (Kakadu Indigenous foods) where visitors can learn and taste the different fresh seasonal ingredients in traditional and gourmet styles of cooking that highlight Indigenous culture and the versatility of Indigenous ingredients from Kakadu,” Tyler says.

FRI 18 – SUN 27 MAY | KAKADU NATIONAL PARK | VARIOUS COSTS | parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/taste

See the event listing.

Thumbnail and top: Clayton Donovan

Header and bottom: image courtesy of Parks Australia

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