“Buy the produce first; the menu comes next.”

So goes the cooking approach of Kenny McHardy, owner of Fremantle’s cosy Manuka Woodfire Kitchen and one of the chefs taking part in June’s month-long Plating Up WA promotion.

Timed to coincide with June’s WA Day public holiday, Plating Up WA sees chefs and venues across the state celebrate West Australian produce and producers by offering hero dishes throughout June. The selection of WA-centric dishes being served reflects the diversity of the ingredients and growing regions being showcased. Denmark’s Pepper & Salt, for instance, will serve local marron roasted with seven-spice mix alongside a turmeric nam prik and young bamboo. The Cheese Barrel in the Swan Valley has put together an all-WA cheese board, while Shark Bay is cast as the star of the fish and chips at The Shoe Bar.

“Anything that’s growing on a farm at the same time almost always tastes better served together,” says McHardy who will be serving two vegetarian dishes as part of Plating Up WA (the first is a baked brie from Nannup cheesemakers Cambray, while the second is pickled, then roasted delicata pumpkin grown by Warren Grange in Pemberton paired with Bookara goat’s curd from Dongara). “It makes me proud to be able to support them as much as they support us.”

Parochialism and feel-good warm and fuzzies aside, making the effort to eat and cook local has more practical benefits, starting with lower food miles. Ingredients grown in WA invariably get to end users in better shape and with more nutrients then ingredients that have crossed multiple time zones. Then there’s the all- important value of voting with our wallets.

“Keeping money in WA helps farmers continue to give us chefs what we want,” says Melissa Palinkas, chef and co-owner of East Fremantle’s anti-waste small bar, Young George. “Buying local ensures you’re receiving produce at its peak.”

Other venues taking part in the program include Rockpool Bar & Grill and Margaret River winery dining powerhouse, Wills Domain.

See the Plating Up WA website for venue and dish details.