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Ben Shewry's What Grows in the Garden

There's nary a chef who shows up at a food festival these days without some sort of intro roll or other AV fluffing, but Ben Shewry is way out in front. The Attica chef is no stranger to the production of short films - in fact, he's formed a production company in Melbourne with his pals Johnny Abegg and Colin Page (who also shot Shewry's 2012 book, Origin). Their first outing suggests that their interests lie a fair way left field of the usual chop-and-chat material. In fact, the video is so graphic that we can only show you a snippet above - hop on over to Awakau Road Films' channel for the whole thing.

In the meantime, the culinary auteur gave us the lowdown on the new string to his bow.

Gourmet Traveller: So, Ben, what the hell?
Ben Shewry: Well, I was kind of tired of seeing the old "chef makes a beautiful film about his garden filled with poetry, classical music and tweezers". It was also terrific fun to typify some of those age-old angry chef stereotypes.

Is this you working out some issues?
This is actually a pilot for a real-life reality TV series about me and what a great boss I am. I was caught on film by hidden cameras being myself. I should probably feel ashamed. But then again, my staff did murder me.

How long did this all take?
Well, it took me maybe a week to write it. Johnny Abegg (a partner in Awakau Road Films and good mate) and I fleshed it out for a couple of days. Then two full days shooting at Rippon Lea Estate in 40-degree heat. (Yes, that compost pile was steaming. And, no, my wife wouldn't let me back in the house that night with rotten organic matter coming out of my nostrils). About a week or two of editing, a few months of procrastinating, a few more months of music rights negotiating and here we have it.

Were there many volunteers among your staff to play the part of your murderer?
They were lining up thick and fast, but there could only be one.

And who is that under the sack getting whacked with the tennis ball?
That's Matt Boyle, one of my recently qualified young chefs. He's also the werewolf-type character and the one who rallied the staff to turn against me. Later in the film he's seen feeding my body parts into the wood chipper. Kids these days, eh? Treat them with love but they just want to make a burger out of ya.

Is that a Thee Oh Sees number you've got as the soundtrack?
Man, I can't tell you how much of a pleasure it was to get the music rights to that song. The Thee Oh Sees are one of my favorite bands of all time and the founder of the band, John Dwyer, was incredibly generous.

What's next for you, cinematically speaking?
I've recently founded a little film company called Awakau Road Films with three great friends - Johnny Abegg (director, cinematographer, editor and all-round brilliant film-maker), Colin Page (second camera, prop designer and still photography) and Tad Lombardo (producer and manager). I guess I'm the trouble-maker in a way: I write the stories or content and then we all do our best to get into a deep vein of creativity. The whole thing is done on our own time on limited budgets and that's the really fun part, creating little stories out of nothing. The next production from Awakau Road is more serious. Johnny and I are definitely drawn to the darker and more realistic side of storytelling. The more raw and real the better.


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