Having worked for a plethora of notable chefs including Marco Pierre White and Nico Ladenis, as well as opening his own Michelin rated independent pubs, Darron Bunn has now joined Goodwood as Estate Executive Head Chef.
MAR 30th 2016
Darron Bunn's journey to Goodwood
How it began
Darron’s story is one of truly humble beginings. After graduating from 3 years at culinary college and many a hand written letter, Darron landed his first job working on the 26th Floor of the Hilton Park Lane at its ‘The Windows’ restaurant as a commis chef. With £6 and a box of knives to his name he moved down from Redditch to London with a hunger to work for the best chefs. Having excelled at college, Darron believed himself to be quite a capable young chef, however he says that this was very apparently not the case and he had to learn extremely quickly how to adjust to not only London life, but the speed and skill required for a professional kitchen.
"My life was consumed by the job."
Darron would spend all his time learning. He would come in earlier, stay later and even do stages (unpaid kitchen work) at many other London restaurants to learn what it takes to be the best. After what he describes as a ridiculously quick 18 months he went on to join Nico Ladenis at his flagship restaurant Chez Nico, and once again found himself completely out of his depth!
Nico’s kitchen standards and expectations from his brigade of chefs was on another level and Darron had to almost start again. Although challenging Darron flourished here. After 2 years working with Nico, Darron heard that Marco Pierre White was looking for a chef at his 3 Michelin star rated restaurant in Knightsbridge and went for it.
"A few times in the early days I thought I was done... I would get home and moan a bit and before you knew it, it would be 07:00 and I would be back in the kitchen and getting on with it."
It wasn’t easy to say the least, however, by 23 Marco had promoted Darron to Sous-Chef, and at 25 he gained the honour of being asked to be Head Chef at The Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly. Marco expected nothing but perfection and the skills and techniques that Darron learnt are still with him today.
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!
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Private Members & discovering Goodwood
After 18 months of doing this, a different challenge landed on Darron’s plate in the form of the most exclusive members club in London. Having never worked in the sector before he was offered the chance to settle down and have a good work/life balance, as well as have the opportunity to create some of the best food he has ever done. It was here that Darron first came across Goodwood, as Alfred Dunhill used Home Farm produce. Darron came down to Goodwood on a Farm Visit and was approached by our own CEO, Alex Williamson, to become our new Executive Head Chef for the Estate.
“Goodwood offers such a unique experience in every way.”
Starting in October last year, he has already made great strides towards improving our food offerings here at Goodwood, focussing specifically on creating brand identities for each of our 4 dining venues; The Aero Café, The Richmond Arms, The Bar & Grill and The Kennels. The ‘little boy from Birmingham’ has bought a new flavour to Goodwood, taking our Farm to Fork philosophy to the next level, ensuring that we use all we can from our award winning Home Farm.
Darron has been instrumental in the developmentof our new, exclusive Hound Lodge, which opened in January. Alongside Head Chef Adam, he has worked to create a unique dining experience for guests. To assist him with this is our Farm Manager of the Year 2015, Tim Hassell.
As a team they look to create new menus across the Estate to encompass nose to tail dining, ensuring no produce goes to waste; and we can’t wait to see what they suggest!
If you have been inspired and would like to join Darron and his amazing team of Chefs, explore our Vacancies page to find out what opportunities we currently have.
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