Inspired by his family, Sky By The Water’s head chef Aaron Darnley has come a long way since he picked up the cheffing bug from a popular TV cookery show as a youngster
Tell us about your cooking
My style is simple and not over-complicated. I strive for bold flavours using the freshest ingredients that people can relate to. We’ve a great team spirit in the kitchen which is hugely important and getting everyone involved in developing menus fosters that.
How did you become a chef?
This is a bit embarrassing, but I credit the TV show Ready, Steady, Cook with inspiring me to become a chef! I used to come home from school between the age of 13 and 15 and watch it religiously. I’d tell my mum, ‘I think I’m gonna be a chef,’ and she’d just say ‘okay love,’ and carry on with what she was doing. I trained at UCB where the lecturers were some of the best chefs in the country. I’m inspired to push on now by my family. I’ve a two-year-old daughter who I want to make proud. Being a chef is the kind of career in which you have to have your family behind you and mine always have been.
What do you eat when at home?
A lot of Italian food with simple flavours. I was given a pizza oven for Father’s Day which is right up my street. True to form I’ve become obsessed with making the perfect pizza which so far seems to be the simpler the better – mozarella, tomato, basil, parmesan.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
The best chef in the world is Gordon Ramsay. He’s done everything and his food is amazing which is overshadowed a bit by all the TV work he does now. I used to watch Boiling Point (the 1999 documentary about Ramsay) to rev me up for service. It was a revolutionary piece of TV and an inspiration to chefs everywhere. In Birmingham it would be unfair to choose just one, but the food scene in the city right now is just unbelievable.
Is the customer always right?
Yes! They pay our wages.
Share a cooking tip
Don’t cook. Go out. Sky By The Water perhaps…
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I’d have to say dad’s tinned corned beef hash with beans and sweetcorn. He’d microwave all the ingredients together in one bowl and it tasted brilliant.
Food heaven and hell?
My last supper would be my wife’s sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and food hell would be mackerel. I just can’t get on with it at all.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
When I was 15, Brad Carter was my first head chef and he cooked up some lamb’s brain for me to try. It was just mushy and horrible.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I’d be a gardener. My mum does mine at the moment. I like to grow my own veg – not in winter though! Just up to October.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Confit pork belly slow cooked for 12 hours with sweet potato mash, savoy cabbage and cider sauce.