Isabella Britton is a go-getter. She’s a 21 year old cattle station cook in remote western Queensland. She also studies an agribusiness degree full time.
While her Facebook page What Bella Baked Next may appear to be a food blog, the page is about connecting with people from the kitchen at Alderley Station, north of Boulia.
“I wanted to show people what I was up to in rural Australia because some people, city people, don’t understand what I get up to everyday,” she said.
“I want to share with them and show them. I’m passionate about living this way. You can’t beat the lifestyle, the experiences, the work ethic. Everything changes when you come out here.”
She juggles her fulltime online studies while cooking for about a dozen hungry mouths, spending three hours each afternoon doing her university work.
She’s lucky. The internet access on the remote station is reliable, allowing her to access the University of New England’s curriculum, lectures and tutorials online without any problems. This is not the case for many, many people in regional Australia.
Keen to enter the live export industry upon completion of her three-year degree, Bella is majoring in marketing and management.
“I want to help negotiate trade [deals]. It fascinates me when agents come and they’re on the phone constantly negotiating deals. I’d love to be involved in that,” she said.
Bella admits the Alderley Station kitchen can be a lonely place when the station hands are out in the heat and the dust.
“They come in for dinner after a long day and they’re telling stories about what happened and sharing a yarn,” she said.
“Those fellas work very hard, I know they do, and I just want them to come home at the end of the day and say, ‘Thanks for doing that for me, Bella’.
“They’re very polite and I’m grateful for that because it helps me stay motivated.”
What Bella Baked Next is fast becoming an online hub for sharing recipe and kitchen tips.
“It’s great to be able to connect with these people who have been doing it a lot longer than I have,” she said.
Bella credits her mother and grandmothers for her interest in cooking, calling them “fantastic cooks”.
She believed putting love into her food made her a good a cook.
“I imagine that if I was eating it, I would want someone to respect the food and what I was about to eat,” she said.
Station hand Martin Bolton chuckled as he said he could taste the love.
“She does well keeping all of us happy. It’s the best feed I’ve ever had,” he said.
“She puts a lot of time and effort into everything. She puts a lot of heart into her food.”
I tasted that love for the bush and her station team when I ate dinner with them all. Bella’s lasagne went down a treat. The ringers went back for seconds, washed their own plates, and said “thanks for that, Bella. It was yum”.