Darren Archer is executive head chef at Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) House. The RSA House, founded in 1754, is a fellowship that promotes social change and claims rights to the first recorded use of the word ‘sustainability’ in an environmental context. Having joined in 2012, Archer tells us about his culinary career
How long have you been at RSA House?
Since 2012, so six years now.
What does your typical day involve?
We’re an events-based site with an all-day dining offer so every day is different. I’ll usually start with a team briefing to make sure all of my team have the tools and information to allow them to deliver the catering throughout the site, checking for issues that need clarification, then working through the day’s events before organising orders and catching up on emails and paperwork, with a healthy dose of hands on cooking in between.
When did you first get into cooking, and what inspired you?
I started cooking as a teenager and then got drawn into fine dining through seeing the Roux Brothers’ TV series.
What is your cooking style?
Relaxed European classics with an emphasis on seasonal produce.
Where do you source your food from?
We try to find the best specialist suppliers which is much easier being based in central London as we have access to some of the best produce anywhere.
What size team do you currently work with?
The team is up to nine at the moment.
Where was your first job in the industry?
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Bibendum in its Simon Hopkinson heyday. Barrafina is a favourable place to eat – I love the whole eating at the bar scenario as it adds to a more relaxed and convivial experience.
What or who has been the biggest influence on the way you cook and why?
The Roux Brothers, Marco Pierre White and Simon Hopkinson – these are the kitchens that formed me as a disciplined chef which then enabled me to be able to manage a kitchen and make it profitable.
What trends do you expect will dominate the foodie scene next year?
Veganism will continue to grow with the amount of push in the media. The end of the spectrum BBQ style places will carry on popping up, we seem to be living in a period of extremes and that’s reflected in eating trends.
What is your personal signature dish?
Seville orange tart, pomegranate and roasted pistachio.
What is the best and worst part of your job?
Working with great produce every day and bringing along young chefs. The worst has to be finding chefs, there’s a large skills void at the moment and the industry in general isn’t attracting the type of talented and energetic new blood we need in the numbers that the industry requires.
What is the biggest challenge as part of your job?
Hiring the right staff.
What has been the proudest moment in your career to date?
Owning and running my own restaurant for eight years.
What is your number one tip for any aspiring chefs out there?
Learn all areas of your craft – finances being one of the most important that seems to get left out until it’s a problem.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learnt?
Be organised. Without it control is out of reach and consistency is impossible and that has the potential to ruin you very quickly.
What are you looking to achieve in the next 12 months?
I’m looking to grow the brand new all day dining concept we’ve just opened at RSA House and I’m hoping to smash the budgets we’ve set.