An innovative Kimberley couple has created a dining experience that combines camp ovens, gourmet dining, bush tucker and a view over Lake Argyle.
Story Maureen Hunter Photos Ben Broady
Chandeliers and camp ovens are unlikely companions, unless you happen to be in the east Kimberley, WA. As the sun dips over Lake Argyle, 70km from Kununurra, Josh Melville and his fiancée Tamsyn Reynolds of Gourmet Camp Oven Experience treat diners to a three-course dinner featuring bush tucker and local flavours – and special, solar-powered chandeliers.
Camp ovens – typically cast-iron pots with a lid – have been used since at least the early 1900s by drovers in outback camps, but Josh, a New Zealander, had never heard of them when he first came to the Kimberley in 2012. He had studied Zoology and Environmental Science, and was disappointingly jobless in New Zealand when an east Kimberley tourism resort offered him a position as a tour guide. Josh promptly had his first foray into camp oven cooking. “At the resort they had a camp oven cook-off between the staff members,” he says. “I thought, ‘This will be great!’ So, I entered, and I lost miserably.”
Around a year later Josh moved 100km east to Lake Argyle, eventually setting up tour company Lake Argyle Adventures. On one of his bush tucker tours to a local property, he noticed numerous camp oven pits. Josh says, “It was just like an outback stockmen’s camp and so I thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity to do a bit more practising’”. He spent time perfecting his craft.
This story excerpt is from Issue #137
Outback Magazine: June/July 2021