Paddock to Plate a Prime Pick
If you’re a bona fide foodie, there’s one event you don’t want to miss at Shore Leave – and it’s not the one you might think.
Yes, there is that Instagram-friendly, super scrumptious long table lunch happening under the Abrolhos Islands sunshine. You’ll dine out for years on the views alone if you’ve snaffled tickets to that one.
If not, rest assured you’ll leave fully sated and equally inspired by the premier foodie event happening on the Geraldton foreshore: the Midwest Paddock to Plate Presented by Midwest Ports.
This glittering soiree is the one to be at if you want to experience the happy confluence of top notch chefs and stunning produce from the Midwest food bowl, served under mood lighting as the water laps on the nearby beach.
Each course – four savoury, one sweet – has been curated by a different chef for the gala dinner. You won’t go hungry. Think pork, beef, lamb, local goats cheese, local oil and grains and Geraldton’s famous cucumbers – all of the culinary showstoppers that exist alongside the region’s celebrated seafood.
This year the chefs working their magic are Brendan Pratt (Vasse Felix), Melissa Palinkas (Young George and Ethos Dining), Jenny Lam (Bunn Mee), Portia Bodycoat (The Gerald) and Stephen Watson (Heyder and Shears).
As the sun sets, guests will mingle over aperitifs on the lawn as the chefs prepare to unleash their creations onto diners. Each chef has sourced a raft of local produce from regional farms and butchers in order to create one dazzling course in a five-course bonanza – all of it matched with Vasse Felix wines.
With a former MasterChef contestant among them – and some award-winning chefs in the mix – you can bet there’ll be some competitive pride at play helping to make the whole experience high end and memorable.
We spoke to two of the chefs ahead of the event for a sneak peek into what’s in store.
Melissa fell for cooking while washing dishes at a restaurant during art school. A stint cooking in London gave her a love of great produce, which she brings to her kitchen at Young George in East Fremantle. Her German Hungarian heritage explains why the langos (fried bread) is so good at her other venture, Ethos Deli and Dining Room. She’s a local produce advocate and runs her kitchens on minimal waste. She says she’s never been more passionate about cooking.
What’s the appeal of doing an event like Midwest Paddock to Plate?
Going out and wowing people with food from their own region. I’m a big ambassador for WA produce, and I’m excited about this festival because there’s only a few producers in the region that are on the radar – a lot of people aren’t aware of what’s available. Provenance is important, and there’s some great local produce in the Midwest. We’ll be showing people what they can do with it and how to cook it simply – although for this event I think we’ll be pulling out all the stops!
You’re doing the second course. What local produce will be the hero of your dish?
I’m known for doing a lot of meat so I’m excited to be doing a plant-based number. I’m doing a carrot risotto, but the catalyst for the dish is Block 275 canola oil and canola seeds which I use at Ethos. They have a nutty flavour and texture which brings the dish together.
Talk us through your dish.
It’s a take on cauliflower rice, but made with carrot – there’s no rice in it, though it resembles risotto in texture and look. It’s made with lightly pickled and steamed carrot, with mashed up macadamia nuts and a warm macadamia and canola emulsion on the bottom. To mimic parmesan, there’s grated macadamia with finely chopped Geraldton wax through it – which tastes a bit like sumac. The dish is topped with carrot herb.
What other Midwest produce are you a fan of?
I love the canola oil – no one else seems to be using it, but it’s a lovely oil that goes really well with root vegetables. I use a lot of Abrolhos scallops and octopus, and western rock lobster. I also use oats and brown chickpeas from that region, and the goats cheese from Bookara Dairy.
What can people expect from the Midwest Paddock to Plate event?
A high end degustation, executed at the highest level, with beautiful produce and wines. We’ll be showcasing the farmers of the region and perhaps educating people about what’s on their doorstep.
Jenny came lucky 13th in season 10 of MasterChef in 2018. The former marketing professional then did a stint at Perth’s Wildflower restaurant before opening Bunn Mee in Leederville with her family, specialising in banh mi and other authentic Vietnamese dishes. She opened a second venture, the Vietnamese tapas restaurant Phat Lon, in February this year. She is the author of the cookbook, Eat Like a Viet.
How well do you know the Midwest?
I’ve been going to Geraldton since I could drive – about a dozen times in the last 15 years. I love road trips, and Geraldton is a northern destination that’s not too far. You get beach, you get farm, you get great produce, and there’s enough going on in the city to give you a great experience. There’s really good boutique shops, and you can go crayfishing, visit the pink lake, go to Kalbarri – there’s so much to do.
Of all its wonderful produce, what’s the highlight for you?
Tomatoes. There’s definitely something that farmers up there do differently. The tomatoes in Geraldton are much more flavoursome than anywhere else. Add a bit of olive oil, salt and basil, and you realise how tasty they are.
Tell us about the dish you’re preparing for Paddock to Plate.
I’m doing pot sticker pork and ginger dumplings. When you’re eating something as luxurious as pork, you want a sauce that’s going to balance out your palate. You don’t want to feel heavy, you want to come back for more. I’m making my own lemongrass chilli oil paired with black vinegar and soy sauce.
When you eat Asian food you always want something fresh and acidic to cut through, and pickled cucumber salad was the intuitive thing. Geraldton is famous for its cucumbers – they’re crunchy and they’re juicy – so I really wanted to use those.
You’re one of several chefs preparing a course for this event. Are you competitive?
100 per cent, it’s why I entered MasterChef! But in this case, there’s no competition, I’m so humbled to be cooking alongside such great chefs. We all know and eat each other’s food. We’ve created a menu of dishes that’ll work really well together. Cooking for 200 people in a limited kitchen with weather to consider will be challenging, though. It’s like a Pressure Test all over again!
What’s the appeal of an event like Midwest Paddock to Plate?
It’s literally a once in a lifetime event. Not only is it unique because of where you are, but the menu is specifically created for this festival. Once it’s over, it’s over – you can’t get this anywhere else.
It’ll be a magical night of food. Our biggest passion is being able to bring joy through food – and that means we put a lot of love into it.
Midwest Paddock to Plate presented by Midwest Ports
Friday 29 April, 6pm- 10pm