A slice of cake at Coolah Creek
- with Jillie Arnott
This week, I was lucky enough to visit Jillie Arnott, owner of a small business called The Cooking Tree. Jillie, her husband Will and their three children, live on a beautiful property called Coolah Creek'. The pretty drive up the valley was roughly 70kms from home and I must say it was such a delight to drive past lush wheat crops and pastures, frolicking with lambs. It was incredible to see the difference in the landscape, compared a couple of years ago during the drought.
When you step inside Jillie's garden fence, you sense you're somewhere very special. Jillie greeted us with wide, open arms and warmth that exemplifies the best of country hospitality. There's a sense of abundance at Coolah Creek- an abundance of generosity, talent, passion and creativity.
Jillie invited us inside for a cuppa and the first thing I noticed was the homely aroma of freshly baked cake (which was absolutely delicious I might add). Jillie is a true foodie with a successful career that boasts 25 years of catering. She is passionate about producing and cooking homegrown, seasonal produce. Each season's pickings are bottled in the form of jams, condiments and preserves under her label, The Cooking Tree. When you taste these products, freshness and goodness reign. Once the season finishes, Jillie plants the next rotation of fruit and vegetables.
Jillie lead me into a small room filled, filled with her latest batch of goodies.
When the labels were done, Jillie took us on a relaxing garden tour. Jillie's love for her home and garden was clearly evident. The garden is absolutely out of this world and I felt so grateful to be there. The Arnott's have created rooms, so that every time you take a turn, there's something unexpected and striking. Jillie pointed out the beautiful fruit tree blossoms that were coming to an end, discussed the structure of the shrubs planted to give a rhythm to the beds and talked about her favourite spring flowers. Outside the back door, we wandered through her large vegetable garden where Jillie grows seasonal produce and fruit trees.
Not only does Jillie work on her gourmet range, but also the family felt the need to add another dimension to their business. A family decision was made to share their idyllic space as a country destination. Jillie collaborates with other creative people, where she runs hands on' workshops and experiences. These are varied and include veggie patch to plate experiences, artists retreats, wellness weekends, bush walking, dry stone wall building, garden related activities and cooking lessons (yes for BBQ ones for men too!).
Where did your passion for cooking and gourmet food come from?
As a child we always had delicious food on the table, Mum was a great inspiration along with a wonderful godmother and others. ?I continued cooking when I went on a working holiday in Scotland, as a young 20 year old, in shooting and fishing lodges. Fresh produce was abundant and I loved learning to use the fresh ingredients to cook for my guests. ?I continued to follow my passion for food at the Country House at Belltrees (3 yrs.) and then in my catering business (25yrs) and now at Coolah Creek with our guests at workshops and retreats.?
What's the ethos behind your range?
My product is all about sustainability, using what I have growing in my garden and what I am fortunate to be given. Sharing what I have is incredibly important to me.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
We came up with the name after a round table discussion with close friends and a bottle of wine. The Cooking Tree has many yummy branches?and my logo depicts that.?
What do you love about where you live and how does it influence your creativity?
We love the unique location at the head of the Coolah Creek valley as its beautiful and inspiring.? Living here influences my creativity. My business is a mix of necessity and creating product with what I have at my fingertips.?
Why do you think your brand, The Cooking Tree products stand out from the crowd?
My products come about from abundant seasons and the love and care put into them. Often hand harvested and prepared by me with my family and friends assistance.?
Tell us about your events and retreats.
Everything we do at Coolah Creek is done to share what we have and so I can do what I do best. The events come about from connections with like-minded creators who want to share what they do and their journeys. ?I love collaborating.?
Why are you happy to collaborate with Country Culture?
Because we will have fun and I love what Country Culture stands for. ?
If you would like to follow Jillie's journey, join her community on