Pialligo Estate Executive Chef, Darren Perryman, says his passion for cooking has its origins in Lancashire in North West England. That’s where Darren was born and spent his early childhood years. At that time his grandmother was his greatest influence in the kitchen. As a kid, he soaked up as much of her wisdom as possible.
In 1980, when he was nine years of age, his family relocated from the United Kingdom to Canberra.
Close to 40 years later, the memories of Lancashire seem a lifetime ago, somewhat clouded by the incredible vista of Pialligo Estate. Darren looks out from the open-space kitchen, through the pavilion conservatory, towards the Parliament House flagpole and the Brindabella Range in the distance.
Darren, at times, finds it hard to comprehend the reality of the space in which he finds himself. “I’ve never worked anywhere with a kitchen that is so open. It enables great interaction with the customers.” And this is something he greatly enjoys. The fact that customers have a clear view of the market garden, and the olives and fruit growing in front of them, simply adds to the experience.
It becomes obvious early in the conversation with Darren that he is passionate about many things. However, when it comes to discussing food, he steps into overdrive, especially when talking about Pialligo Estate’s Paddock to Plate concept.
As he looks down on the olive groves, orchards, and market garden he comments: “It inspires your thought process.” And this isn’t hard to visualise when he explains, “If I order ten kilos of baby carrots at 10 pm, it is there waiting for me in the morning. And because of this freshness, the difference in the flavour is second to none.”
As Executive Chef, Darren’s role is to oversee the running of Pialligo Estate’s two kitchens with 13 chefs. “I have an enormous level of autonomy with what is planted, the menus, interaction with Pialligo Estate’s horticulturalists, the harvesting timetable of vegetables, fruit and herbs, coupled with the ability to research the origins of every product we put on a plate,” says Darren.
And his ability to make good decisions comes from spending about 35 years as a chef. This includes 11 years running one of Kingston’s favourite restaurants, First Floor, before finding his dream job at Pialligo Estate just over two years ago.
Now he is in his element.
Did I mention herbs? In spending some time with Darren one glorious Canberra day at Pialligo, it became quite apparent that he knows every plant in the Alice-in-Wonderland-like garden space. This includes the 100 metres of zucchini flowers in a perfect line.
I walk away feeling as though I have been in the presence of the most passionate chef on this planet.