He’s worked in some of the world’s top restaurants and is a celebrity chef in Australia - but last week he had perhaps his toughest assignment yet.
Northern Ireland born and bred Darren Simpson dropped into DH Christie Primary School in Coleraine for a two-day challenge - to inspire year three and four pupils about the importance of healthy eating.
Darren had a captive and appreciative audience and encouraged his young helpers to try out some new culinary experiences.
And his homemade hummus with fresh vegetable dips went down a treat!
An ambassador for The Children’s Food Education Foundation in Australia, Darren has campaigned for non genetically modified - GM- foods with Greenpeace; and cooked up a storm with fellow Master Chefs for Oxfam Community Aid Abroad five years in a row.
And as a father to two boys, Darren knows only too well the difficulty of en couraging children to choose healthy options and stay away from junk food and sugary drinks.
As part of Christie’s ‘Our Healthy Lifestyle’ project, Darren said: “Teaching children to eat well, respect and enjoy simple nourishing food is a life skill; it’s as important as education and play.
“It’s a basic survival technique that we seem to be losing.
“To eat well as a family is so important and to eat well you need to learn to cook well.”
Year 4 teacher Ryan Crawford was thrilled to meet Darren and the children had a lot of fun as the top chef got them to join in on a cookery demonstration.
“The children in The Christie had a fantastic two days when Darren visited, they got to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
“They asked great questions and listened intently to what Darren said about food and healthy eating.”
Within two years of landing his first job, Darren was named UK’s Young Chef of the Year at just 21 - and is still its youngest ever winner.
Darren has trained and worked with some of the greatest chefs in the world and in restaurants such as Paul Rankin’s Michelin-starred Roscoff, Ireland; Albert Roux’s Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, London; Sally Clarke’s Clarke’s, London; Simon Hopkinson’s Bibendum, London; as joint Head Chef of the acclaimed River Café, London; and Head Chef at Sir Terence Conran’s Sartoria in Savile Row, London.
In 1999 he was head-hunted to become the Head Chef of Aqua Luna Bar and Restaurant at Sydney’s East Circular Quay.
His food has been described as “dynamic” and “big-flavoured” and he opened the award-winning La Sala (The Room), a modern Italian restaurant in 2005. He was also awarded Australian Hotels Association Chef of the Year.
He also worked at La Sala in Surry Hills and La Scala in Paddington and was named the Australian Hotels Association Chef of the Year in 2011.
He is the presenter of The Best Down Under which is the highest rating food show on Lifestyle Food and the Lifestyle channel and he has also appeared on the hit reality show, ‘My Restaurant Rules’ and ‘Ready Steady Cook’.
He presents the lifestyle programme ‘Live This’ for which he was awarded a Bronze World Food Media Award and has writtenfor various national and overseas publications: Food Feature writer, ‘Esquire Magazine’ (UK); Food Editor, ‘Live This Magazine’ (Australia); and Contributor, Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Good Living’ (Australia), Food Feature writer Selector Magazine (Australia)
In his spare time Darren has volunteered at Canteen Camp where he taught over 50 young cancer teens to cook the perfect risotto;.
Darren was a bit hit with the Christie pupils and teachers and says when it comes to cooking it’s all about “keeping it simple.”