Long before René Redzepi and Michelin star chefs went foraging for local ingredients. Long before Bear Grylls and Ray Mears made names for themselves by surviving in harsh environments, there was the original, and still the best MAJ Les Hiddins. Otherwise known as Bush Tucker Man.
Hiddins is a national icon in his homeland of Australia and has a cult international following, but his status is nowhere near what it should be, considering how far ahead of his time he was.
A two-tour veteran of Vietnam, Hiddins was an Australian military man and it was his work, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that brought him to the extreme environments of northern Australia to research survival techniques. It was this research that evolved into his iconic television series ‘Bush Tucker Man’. Two series of the show were recorded in 1988 and 1990 and a third ‘Stories of Survival’, was made in 1996.
While Hiddins’ focus is on survival, the recent trend among chefs to get their hiking boots on and scour the local countryside for ingredients that can give a sense of place, shows how ahead of his time he was.
Hiddins’ passion for the landscape and respect for the Aboriginal Australians form whom he gleaned much of his knowledge make for compelling viewing. Foraging is interesting at all times, but in the unforgiving setting of Australia’s outback, there’s another intensity to it.
The series is full of weird and wonderful edibles or ‘bush tucker’ as Hiddens calls it as well as local folklore, stories and insights about the oftentimes surreal and beautiful outback landscape.
If you know ‘Bush Tucker Man’ already, you’ll appreciate it for its originality, if not, it’s time to discover this food television gem for yourself.