Food for Thought: Darren King

Award-winning, Durban-based Darren King takes time out in his kitchen. The British-born singer-actor, noted for his hilarious panto dames in KickstArt productions, rates himself as a pretty good cook.

BILLY SUTER talks to British-born and Durban-based singer-actor DARREN KING about food and drink likes and dislikes, and what he gets up to in the kitchen. Darren is teaming again with Durban’s Rowan Bartlett and Bryan Hiles for the third instalment of their popular ‘Knotted’ cabaret series, highlighting songs associated with Las Vegas. After Tie a Knot in It and Tie Another Knot in It, we now have Knot Again. Catch this fun and varied show at the Hilton Arts Festival, at Hilton College from September 13 to 15, or at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo from September 20 to 22, then September 27 to 29. For more info on the Hilton performances call
(033) 383 0126. Book for the Durban performances at Computicket or phone Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.

On a scale of one to 10 how good a cook are you?

I would rate myself as an eight-out-of-10 cook. I like to cook for friends and family and do so often. I’m often told I’m a good cook so I guess I can’t be too bad.

Your most embarrassing/awkward moment in a restaurant?

My most embarrassing restaurant experience would have to be when I was 21 and was taken to The Ritz in London for a business lunch with my then agent. I order a prawn salad and was horrified when a tank of live prawns was wheeled to the table for me to choose from. Do you have any idea how fast they move?

Fave take-away meal order? And what are you unlikely to never order?

My favourite take-away would have to be fish and chips, although, me being English, it’s not like we get it in the UK. I would probably never order a salad as a take away. What’s the point?

What is your first food memory?

I think my earliest food memory would have to be my grandmother’s cottage pie. It is still a go-to meal for me, especially if I’m feeling ill.

Your favourite meal – and the meal you don’t enjoy much?

I think my favourite meal would be a good roast dinner. I do like vegetables and love a good roast potato. I’m not very fond of hot curry as I think you often can’t taste the flavours.

Something you loved to eat or drink when younger, which you can’t find today?

When I was a child a delivery truck came around once a week to deliver cool drink to our home. It was a company called Alpine and they made a cherry drink which was amazing. Sadly, the company no longer exists, so their cherry cool drink is gone forever

As a child did you ever develop a taste for unusual foods or unusual combinations of foods?

I don’t really have any strange food combination fetishes, although I do like Marmite and mayonnaise on toast.

What is the dish you tend to cook most often?

I don’t cook the same things on a regular basis as I get bored easily, but I guess if I’m busy I do knock up a quick spaghetti bolognaise

What do you like and/or dislike about attending dinner parties?

I enjoy attending dinner parties to spend time with my friends and I hate attending dinner parties out of a sense of obligation.

Darren King would like to invite Donald Trump and Heath Ledger to dinner.

What has been your biggest kitchen disaster?

It may sound big-headed, but I’ve never had a real kitchen disaster.

What has been your biggest culinary success?

I suppose it would have to be the first big dinner party I ever gave. I was 25 and cooked five courses for 26 people.

How serious a wine fundi are you, and what is your favourite tipple?

I’m not a great wine fundi, but I like a very dry white wine. I am very fond of a good French Champagne. 

What three people would you most like to invite to dinner?

Donald Trump (so I could tell him what an ass I think he is), the late Heath Ledger (so I could tell him how sexy I think he is) and my father (so I could tell him how much I miss him).

What kitchen utensil can you simply not live without?

My chefs’ knives. I can’t stand bad knives.

What’s the most kitsch thing in your kitchen?

That would be my Naked Chef apron. It really is a naked chef and the picture is of me.

What are some foods you simply refuse to try?

The only food I refuse to try is tripe – and that is based on the smell more than anything else.

What is your favourite restaurant in Durban and what do you usually order there?

My favourite restaurant in Durban is 9th Avenue Bistro (now moved to the Durban Yacht Mole) and I love their duck.

Fave restaurant in the world?

Joe Allen’s in London. The food and atmosphere there are amazing. I have had so many milestone meals there in my life that it is very special to me.

Fave cooking ingredients?

Onions, garlic, chillies and tomato paste. You can make anything taste edible with one or all of these.

What marks the most memorable meal you’ve had?

It was at the Durban Country Club’s Grill Room. It was my wedding venue. I had chosen the menu and was surrounded by all the people who mean the most in my life.

Who is your favourite celebrity cook? And who is your least favourite?

My favourite is Jamie Oliver, as I just get his style of cooking. My least favourite celebrity chief is Nigella Lawson. I just don’t get her at all.

Your fave tipple and meal on a hot, humid day? And on a chilly day?

Darren King doesn’t really have a sweet tooth but enjoys apple crumble and custard. And dark chocolate.

On a hot, humid day I love crayfish cooked on the braai and a good, dry white wine. On a cold day I make a great Guinness beef stew with suet dumplings.

What is the sexiest of all foods?

Ice-cream… if you’re eating it in bed with the right person.

What do you tip in restaurants?

I tip according to service. I don’t believe in tipping unless it is deserved.

Have you/would you send a dish back at a restaurant if you were not happy with it? 

I would send a meal back if I really thought it was justified, but it would have to be really bad.

Favourite dessert?

I don’t really have a sweet tooth but, being English, I do like apple crumble and custard.

Store-bought sweet you most enjoy?

A bar of bitter dark chocolate.

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