Margaret River and Rosa Brook communities mourning loss of iconic character Ian Parmenter

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Ian Parmenter, pictured with SBS presenter Julia Zemiro at the Margaret River Farmer's Market.
Camera IconIan Parmenter, pictured with SBS presenter Julia Zemiro at the Margaret River Farmer's Market. Credit: Supplied

The Margaret River community has experienced an outpouring of grief at the news of local character, foodie extraordinaire and famed broadcaster Ian Parmenter’s death.

The former ABC presenter, best known to Australian households for his Consuming Passions television show, is understood to have died at the weekend after suffering a heart attack returning home.

He was one of the best-recognised faces in the Margaret River region.

People on the food and wine scene expressed shock Parmenter and his signature red beret would no longer be seen out and about across the shire, at his haunt at Blue Ginger Fine Foods and Cafe, or at the weekend Margaret River Farmers’ Market he helped establish.

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The 79-year-old was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal in 2011 for his services to tourism and the national food scene, but long-term residents close to Parmenter told the Times his passionate advocacy for the region and willingness to speak out to defend the land he called home for the past 25-plus years left a huge hole to fill.

Longtime friend Sue Briggs, who knew Parmenter since she was 19 years old and worked alongside him at the ABC, said he was an irreplaceable asset to the region.

“Ian was larger than life when out and about, and a humble and generous man with family and friends,” she said.

“There was so much fun and joy to be had when Ian was in the kitchen.

“The tectonic plates have shifted in the world where Ian used to be — to laugh and joke with us, as well as keeping us all on our toes regarding current events.”

Former ABC colleague Verity James made a poignant on-air tribute to her old friend.

As did hundreds of people on social media, James offered her deepest condolences to Parmenter’s wife Ann.

“We have all lost an intelligent, superbly articulate, creative, interesting and interested true character,” she said.

“The world will be more beige without IP. I am privileged to have had Ian in my life over 30-plus years.”

Rosa Brook friend and photographer Stephen Blakeney said the community Parmenter supported was in shock at the news.

“He was a colourful and enthusiastic community-minded man who always seemed to have boundless energy to contribute,” he said.

“I photographed him many times over the years for various local projects and fundraisers that he was always willing to participate and become involved with.”

Former deputy Shire president and friend Pauline McLeod told the Times Parmenter was “larger than life”.

“He was funny, had a quirky sense of humour and a big personality,” she said.

“He was one of a kind. Ian will be greatly missed, not just around our town, Margaret River, but across many parts of Australia where people got to know him through his popular ABC TV cooking series, Consuming Passions, and through his contribution to the food industry as a chef, author and educator.

“It has been deeply saddening and a shock for the community to lose Ian so suddenly.”

The foodie spoke with this reporter earlier this month, always keeping in touch with news tips, and admitted sometimes missing the bustle of his professional life despite loving the life down south and his sanctuary with his wife.

A lifelong Labor supporter, Parmenter also told the Times he had recently switched to the Greens in disgust at the State Government-led rejig of electoral boundaries and what he saw as the neglect of regional WA.

Parmenter had his fingers in many pies while living in the region, where he also produced his own private wines, celebrating vintage each year with a lavish meal put on for those who helped with the picking.

He was often first to support new projects, and helped defend Margaret River from coal mining by speaking at rallies in 2011.

His story was also collected in his book Sheer Bottled Bliss released in 2003.

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