This week it’s the turn of Darren (Rolo) Comer, chef at The Allium, North Parade, Bath. Call 01225 461603
When did you first take an interest in cooking, and when did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
I first took an interest when I first picked up a knife at school, I was cutting fruit for a fruit salad and just thinking how cool it was to be preparing fresh fruit to eat and enjoy. After that I would cook very simple food at home to eat just to practice and then worked at a local pub when I was 15, washing pots and pans and seeing good, fresh food being cooked to order.
Where did you do your training?
After school I went to college in Salisbury, where the head chef there also worked at the Savoy Grill in London. Because I turned up every day on time and showed a great interest they found a job offer at a local hotel in Teffont – that’s where I got the best training from a great head chef, Nick Wentworth.
How would you describe the style of food served in your restaurant?
I would say the food at Allium is food inspired by all cultures – we have classics like beetroot and goat's cheese, tomato and basil salad, strawberries and vanilla elderflower, then Asian dishes like mackerel with satay sauce, Mizo cooked salmon with Dashi broth. There are also African inspired dishes.
Do you have a signature dish? If so, what?
It would have to be the first dish I came up with – a vegetarian dish of red onion marmalade, balsamic jelly, cep purée, goa's cheese beignet, red wine poached pear, walnut dressing, trumpet mushrooms, walnut biscuit crumb, baby roasted red onions and goat's cheese ice cream. It was a starter and one Saturday night and it out sold the duck!
What would you order from your own menu?
For starter I would have the mackerel with satay sauce, then the stoned bass with avocado and cherry tomatoes, then the milk tart with poached peach.
Your favourite vegetable, and why?
Every vegetable is amazing, it all depends on the season we are in, but at the moment I'm loving sweetcorn.
And favourite dessert?
I'm half Italian so my favourite dessert is Tiramisu – you get coffee, cream, alcohol, chocolate, what more do you want? A sponge? You get that too!
Do you cook a lot at home? What sort of food?
I rarely cook at home. I live on my own and I spend 18 hours a day cooking for other people so I like others to cook for me. When I go to my girlfriend’s house she cooks simple but fresh food, like salmon with home made chips or a quick little stir fry of chicken and noddles and vegetables.
Where else locally do you like to eat?
I like trying new places to eat, there are so many places in Bath. I do like going to pubs on my bike – going down the canal, then stopping off at a pub on the way.
Why should people come The Allium?
Because we offer some of the best food in Bath for a very good price. We have classic dishes but when they are served I like to think they have that element of surprise. Like the ribs we serve as snacks – we cook them in a master stock for 24 hours, then make a sweet chilli sauce to glaze the ribs, then serve them with crispy garlic, chilli, sesame seeds and coriander. The taste is out of this world!