Darren Archer is Head Chef at London Venue Awards shortlisted RSA House in John Adam Street. He has also recently been announced as one of the contenders for the Foodservice Cateys 2017 Chef of the Year.
2017 proves to be quite a tough year for the competition, as he goes up against Karl Buckthought (Green & Fortune at Kings Place), and Steve Groves (Roux at Parliament Square.)
Firstly, congratulations on being shortlisted for the Foodservice Cateys’ Chef of the Year. How do you rate your chances of winning?
I’m not a super competitive individual, but it’s great being shortlisted. The competition looks very strong so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
Having plates thrown at me by Marco Pierre White influenced me significantly! I decided that I would run my kitchen in a very different way.
How long have you been at Harbour & Jones/RSA House?
I started at the RSA in October 2012 shortly after Harbour & Jones won the contract.
What has been the most challenging moment of your career so far?
I opened my own Restaurant in 2000 and ran it until 2008. It was incredibly stressful and fulfilling in equal measures.
Having the drive and ambition to open a restaurant means that it never leaves your consciousness. You are always looking to improve and raise your standards, whilst keeping a keen eye on the future, the economy and the trends in the industry.
This means it’s very difficult to switch off, however this is balanced out by the rewards from the food that you’re creating and seeing the satisfied and happy customers.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
Although my early career was spent working in Michelin starred restaurants, my biggest inspiration has been the group of chefs who simplified restaurant food and focused on seasonal cooking during the late 80s and early 90s: chefs like Simon Hopkinson, Alastair Little and Shaun Hill.
Also, having plates thrown at me by Marco Pierre White influenced me significantly! I decided that I would run my kitchen in a very different way.
As Lou Reed once said “There’s something to be gained in every human experience”.
Who do you admire most in the industry?
I think that would be the Roux brothers, as they kick-started the restaurant/food revolution we’ve seen over the last 25 years.
Over the pond, it would have to be Danny Meyer, New York restaurateur, who started out with The Union Street Café and went on to build up an empire of restaurants, all with an individual identity of their own, instead of just creating a chain. He is now one of the most respected people in the industry.
If you weren’t a chef, what field do you think you would be in?
I think something music related. Although I have no natural talent for making it, writing about music has remained an integral part of my life since adolescence. Perhaps photography too.
What is your food-related guilty pleasure?
An English fry up, any time of the day with Heinz BBQ baked beans. Not too may though!
What kitchen appliance could you not live without?
The Kenwood mixer. It’s very versatile with all the attachments, but if I was being pedantic obviously it’d be a stove!
Thank you, Darren for taking the time out of your busy schedule for us. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for success in all those awards.