Becoming Head Chef allowed him to learn how to manage a team of young chefs. The Criterion was a huge brasserie, capable of up to 300 covers on a busy night, and was a world away from the world he was used too. After just over 6 years, Darron had married his wife Hayley, who he met at his time at The Hilton, and decided that it was time for something new; and this came in the form of Richard Neat. Richard had been the first British chef to obtain a Michelin star in France and when he approached Darron and asked him to help set up the fine dining and brasserie restaurants at the OXO Tower – who could refuse?
Darron was in charge of planning and designing two new kitchens, as well as putting together not one, but two brigades of chefs for the operation.
Michelin stars and rolling countryside
After just over a year, and with a baby Darron decided that it was time to leave London for pastures greener and with a friend he acquired The Greyhound in Stockbridge, Hampshire.
"We didn't want to have a pub and serve steak & chips, pies or gammon."
So they set about creating restaurant food in a familiar, cosy setting, which back then wasn’t popular; they never expected the success that was to follow. After eighteen months of hard work, a new business partner and another lovely baby, the business was doing well and then, in 2004, The Greyhound received its Michelin Star! Darron describes it as a crazy time, where the business changed overnight. He had finally made a name for himself and had done so creating his own food, cooking it his way, in the countryside. The pub retained its star status for the following year as well and soon he was approached by a couple who was running Orestone Manor, a small hotel near Torquay.
"We had lofty ambitions and desperately wanted a Michelin Star."
Darron employed a few of his old staff and took on the challenge of transforming a traditional hotel with traditional food to something extraordinary, and within 9 months he had succeeded. He was awarded his Michelin Star and Orestone Manor became the first and only hotel within Torquay to achieve such an award. Much like The Greyhound, the business transformed immediately and the phones didn’t stop ringing, however in the summer of that year the owners decided to sell the property and Darron reluctantly stepped aside.
Something of his own
After all of this, Darron then had the opportunity to begin again, and with wife Hayley’s support they decided to open somewhere independently. They chose The Chasers Pub & Restaurant in the small village of Stokeinteignhead, and went about making it their own. As these things often go, shortly after opening the pub Darron was approached to take over as Executive Chef of the 5* Bovey Castle in Dartmoor and as much as they loved their little pub, he decided to go for it and flourished.
After 3 years with Bovey Castle, it was time for pastures new, and Darron was approached by a company to work on a new venture in Birmingham.
"I had always hoped to return to the midlands one day and settle down".
He accepted the offer and moved back to Birmingham. Whilst the restaurant was being built, the plan for Darron was to visit the company's London based restaurants to offer his support and guidance to their Head Chefs, on anything from staffing to standards. However, it wasn’t long before the Birmingham project was shelved and Darron found himself commuting in and out of London once again; something he thought he had given up years ago!