Chef of the Week: Darren Taylor, Executive Chef at a Top London Premier League Football Club

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been working at my current club for 4 years and have been in football for 13 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I have always loved food from a young age. I remember cooking for my grandparents when they used to visit. I must have been 8 or 9. I used to always try to make the plate look good even if it was just a sandwich. I should of realised then that I should train to be a chef, and yet I never trained until 20 years on from that as I did not know all through school and into my twenties what I wanted to do.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the creativity, feeling the love of ingredients and learning something new every single day. I love to go to a food market and get inspiration for dishes by seeing what is available. I believe you must never stop learning, regardless of what position you reach.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Onion, butter & black pepper.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Low sugar chocolate and a return of the bar snack.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Working in a mess. Tidy as you go!

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
My favourite season for cooking is autumn. I love slow cooking, braising, stewing – its real comfort food season. When you produce warming tasty food that makes you smile, then it’s a truly wonderful thing.

 Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the dishes that are crowd pleasers. Dishes that prompt conversation at  the table. I like dishes that have a story behind them and dishes that take us back to our childhood.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Sometimes I create a dish simply be being influenced by the ingredients available to me at the time. Other times I think of great food combinations that work and experiment.

Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence was Giorgio Locatelli. I used to watch his cooking shows and I remember being blown away by his passion for food. He had a fantastic philosophy whereby he believed that you use the very best ingredients and do very little to them and let the produce speak for itself. I was privileged to work for Giorgio at Locanda Locatelli years later.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Anthony Bourdain, Giorgio Locatelli & Rick Stein.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Gary Rhodes – New British Classics.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Paul Ivic, Elena Shramko & Sven Elverfeld.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
The Bonnie Badger by Tom Kitchin.