What happens when a renowned city chef returns home to run his local country pub?

Story John Dunn  Photos Neil Newitt

Jimmy Campbell has come home, back to the magnificent Merino country of Victoria’s southern Grampians, where his family has farmed for 96 years, to run the sole hotel in tiny Cavendish. “It was time,” Jimmy says. “I had enjoyed the cities and felt I had achieved enough. I had always known that I would return.”

While Jimmy, 39, can competently shear sheep and muster cattle in the cool mountain air of his family property, his forte is in the heat of the kitchen. That’s where he made his name nationally, with the top-ranking MoVida restaurant company in Melbourne and Sydney, and two hats from The Good Food Guide testament to his culinary skills.

While family members run their fine-wool sheep and Hereford cattle at Highlands, near the settlement of Mooralla, Jimmy works among the pots and pans of the Bunyip. This former bawdy boozer began as Waddle’s river-crossing inn in about 1840, when sweaty shearers and rough rousties would sooner a fight than a feed. It’s a far cry from bustling Bourke Street or the harbour city’s Surry Hills, where Jimmy made his name as head chef in some of the best restaurants in the land. In partnership with Canadian friend Matt Nettleton, 33, Jimmy is now cooking up a storm in this heritage-listed Art Deco pub, which sits on a sharp corner of the Henty Highway between the two biggest centres in the area, Horsham and Hamilton.

This story excerpt is from Issue #119

Outback Magazine: June/July 2018