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Q&A With Chef Darren Weiss of Darren's Restaurant

Aug 28, 2014 08:50AM ● By Mb News Staff

Chef Darren Weiss with budding chefs from No Limits for Deaf Children during an educational workshop he held for the kids in July. Comedian Kathy Buckley is behind the chef.

As a forerunner to the current dining scene that is now the hallmark of downtown Manhattan Beach, Chef Darren Weiss of Darren's Restaurant has held forth since 2007 with an imaginative culinary experience diners love.

The hands-on chef/owner recently recreated his restaurant's space, removing a wall, and adding expansive windows, a community table, and an inventive new menu of diners' favorites in addition to small and large plates.

Here's an inside look at the man behind the always-packed Darren's Restaurant.

Your culinary expertise is incredible, and has been thrilling Manhattan Beach residents since 2007 at Darren's Restaurant. How did you get involved in cooking, and how old were you?

Chef Darren Weiss: 
I was about 8 years old when I started loving to cook. Since I was a kid, I was never impressed with other people’s cooking so I wanted to have the ability to make my own food following cookbooks, etc. From there, my passion and love for cooking simply grew.

Q: A lot of people may not know you are hearing impaired. I certainly didn't until I found out about your recent benefit dinner for No Limits for Deaf Children which raised funds for hearing-impaired kids. What is your impairment, when did it first arise, and what kind of challenges and/or benefits has it given you when it comes to cooking and developing the culinary expertise you now have?

Chef Darren: I think the reason that most people do not know that I am hearing impaired is because I don’t let it become a hindrance in my everyday life and certainly not in my professional career. I have been deaf since birth.

Q: What sparked you to open Darren's Restaurant in Manhattan Beach, and what other restaurants had you owned before opening Darren's?  

Chef Darren: I fell in love with the culture and location of Manhattan Beach but felt that it was underdeveloped in terms of fine dining options back then (Darren's Restaurant opened in 2007). I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. Prior to opening Darren’s I had owned Café Catalina from 2000-2005 in Redondo Beach.  

Q: Your new menu contains much-loved favorites as well as an expansion into small plates and "community" plates. What are some of the creations left from your previous menu?

Chef Darren: Our popular Lobster Chowder, Rock Shrimp Ravioli, Thai Peanut crusted salmon, short ribs and several others have remained on the menu.

Q: Explain some of your small and large plates, and what you had in mind when creating them?  
Chef Darren: We began to notice that people wanted smaller plate options and saw that guests at the restaurant were sharing their dinners. People want to be able to have a variety (some want both steak and seafood) so we felt a combination of small dishes and sharable entrees would be a great thing to offer at Darren’s.

Q: What is your personal favorite dish on your menu, and why?

Chef Darren: Definitely the Ribeye Caps because it's so mouthwatering. There is nothing better than a moist steak.

Q: What are some of the keys to surviving and thriving as a restaurant?  

Chef Darren: I enjoy challenging myself and traveling the world for inspiration and believe that a passionate chef is one who is willing to continually learn and experiment with new ingredients and food combinations, while recognizing that some dishes are simply perfect the way they are.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?  

Chef Darren: Sure! We are now offering both vegetables and starch side dishes as options for guests. We have found that our guests like to be able to customize their dinner so we wanted to make that possible for them!

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