Every once in a while, I meet a chef that makes me happy that I do what I do. Chefs have wonderful stories, they are filled with passion and drive that many do not understand. The Executive Chef at Seachasers Restaurant, Darin Ball, reminded me of that today during our interview. His drive is palpable; he is a perfectionist, father, a superstar. I felt good just being around him.
When did you find an interest in cooking?
As a teenager, mom and dad were total meat and potatoes people who worked long hours. They would leave me money to buy pizza or other fast food options. He quickly discovered he could take the money and cook simple dishes for himself. He then tried to recreate dishes he ate at friends houses. Once he was old enough to work, he found himself in restaurants learning the many different positions available in the kitchen. When he moved to Jacksonville Beach, he again sought out restaurant jobs, that eventually took him to Ponte Vedra Club where he thrived learning how to cook and develop ethnic dishes. Darin told me he kept a book on each dish he made and practiced making the recipe until he felt he had it mastered.
How did you receive your training to become a chef?
No formal training, it has been on the job training, from cook one to Chef de Cuisine, to my current position as Executive Chef.
What cuisines influence your style of cooking?
I have cooked many different types of food during my training years I am comfortable cooking any dish. I cook to my clientele, what do they want, what sells that’s what I cook.
What is your philosophy when it comes to food and your restaurant?
Once I figure out what my dish is going to be it has to be at that level until I decide to change it or take it to the next step. If it is not selling well, what can I do to improve it or make it better for the customer? Everything has to be clean; plates have to be picture perfect when the leave the kitchen. Pretty, clean with big flavors.
What drives you?
Making my family proud of me.
Favorite ingredient to work with?
Seafood, all the fishes, shellfish, there are so many varieties. Steaks are steaks, cook to the right temp add some sauce, and you that’s all. Not so with fish, there are many ways to flavor and cook fish.
Most challenging ingredient to work with?
Asian flavors are complicated when making sauces combining characters can quickly go south; after hours of work, you may have to start over.
One person, you would most like to cook for?
Anthony Bourdain, a straight shooter.
Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in and what is the meal?
Grand Rapids Michigan and it’s my moms Goulash.