Mashed, boiled or fried, everybody loves a spud. It's been a dietary staple for centuries and West Australians each eat 20kg a year.
Make that mashed with lots of love, lashings of butter, flaky salt and a hint of white pepper for chef Don Hancey, one of six - soon-to-be-12 - high-profile "potatodors" promoting the world's fourth most popular food crop as part of the Potato Marketing Corporation's $1.8 million per annum grower-funded Fresh Potato campaign to lift local consumption by 10,000 tonnes over the next three years.
"A couple of drops of truffle oil really sets it off," Hancey says. "If you have fresh truffle, even better. My love affair with potatoes goes back to my childhood when Mum would do a mash with iceberg lettuce on the side.
"There'd always be something else, of course, but the textural contrast between mash and crispy lettuce is magic - though I tend to use Cos these days.
"What people may not realise - and I certainly didn't - was how fresh, regional and seasonal potatoes are. We have four major growing areas, all with different soil types and growing times. So I will now put more focus on the type of potato I am using because they all have characteristics which set them apart."
Call it the terroir of potatoes and about 24 varieties are grown in WA. Nadine is the most popular because it has the highest yield, but it's not the best eating one around. Royal blue is second and third place goes to Ruby Lou.
Confused? Go by colour, instead. Red skin potatoes, like Ruby Lou and rodeo, are best for mashing; blue-skin potatoes are perfect for roasting and yellow-skin varieties make a mean chip.
"The industry is on the verge of a huge change with lots of new varieties coming to market," Laura Clarke, Fresh Potatoes brand manager said. "We expect five years from now, the majority of potatoes grown will be yellow-skin varieties, like almera, Dutch cream, carisma and kipfler."
The push to reverse the decline in consumption coincides with the PMC's truce over a long-standing war with Spud Shed owner Tony Galati, who signed a confidential agreement with the WA potato industry regulator committing the Galati Group to operate within the system, which is subject to the Marketing of Potatoes Act of 1946 and the Marketing of Potatoes Regulations of 1987. It is believed the agreement also clears the way for Mr Galati to increase his planting by about 25 per cent.
About 50,000 tonnes of potatoes are produced annually in WA for the fresh market. That's not counting the 30,000 tonnes grown for chips and frozen products, or the 5000 tonnes WA exports. The PMC hopes to boost fresh potato production to 60,000 tonnes by 2016.
"The research tells us that people have mistakenly thought potatoes are really bad in terms of carbs, but they're certainly better than rice," PMC chief executive Peter Evans said. "So we're really wanting people to fall back in love with the spud. There hasn't been a major consumption campaign for at least a decade, so we're going to focus on how to cook in a healthy way that's good for you. There will be a plethora of tips and the TV ads will concentrate on things everyone loves - mash, roast and chips."
His favourite? Roast, of course, and Olympic hockey star Fergus Kavanagh who plays for the Kookaburras and is a potato ambassador, will second that. "Just the other night we had a special dinner at a restaurant in Wembley and the roast potatoes were cooked in duck fat," he said. "They were beautiful, but not something I would do at home." He comes from an Irish family, so potatoes have always been a given, and lives with a couple of mates. The three of them go through a 2kg bag a week.
"The team has a dietitian who advises us on what to eat, but it's pretty normal food really," he said. "Lots of fruit and vegetables, protein and some extra carbs because we train a lot, but the timing of meals is more important. We have carbs before training for energy and after training to aid recovery - and potatoes fit the bill. They've had a bad wrap for being a bit boring, but they're an essential food for the elite athlete."Mr Kavanagh eats potatoes three times a week, compared with the average WA consumption of 1.5 times a week. "We do roast potatoes, mash and I've even tried my hand at gnocchi, but that's a work in progress at this stage."