Darren MacLean is a chef, restaurateur and food advocate based in Calgary. The Alberta-born chef has reached much acclaim for his no-nonsense approach to cooking, depth of flavour and understanding of cuisines that stretch well beyond the prairies.
He is currently in the process of opening of his second Calgary restaurant – Shokunin – a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant using locally sourced ingredients. Opening if Summer 2015 in Calgary’s bustling Mission district, it will feature authentic yakitori, Japanese fusion small plates, and a late-night ramen takeaway window (using pork specially raised for Chef Darren at 4K farms). The cocktail menu alike will be carefully curated with direct from Japan sake and a collaboratively brewed rice beer done specifically for Shokunin with Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery.
Darren grew up in a multi-cultural community with a lot of first generation Canadians. Many of his friends were Asian, and from a young age he began eating at their homes, learning to appreciate the curious, new cuisine he was served like noodles, braised pork and event specialty items like duck feet.
Drawn to kitchens, he began his career like many chefs, washing dishes. Lying about his age, he entered the kitchen at age 12, quickly moving up through the ranks and at times working as a server or ladies night (shirtless) bartender.
Darren studied Finance at Mount Royal University in Calgary but it didn’t take long for him to say “F#@% It” and leave MRU, instead, enrolling at the Stratford Chefs School in Ontario. “I tried to get away from cooking, but I love the fire and the adrenaline.”
He continued his education by working under some of the country’s most well-respected chefs including Chris Grafton at Murrieta’s and Ned Bell, formerly of Redwater. A lover of travel, he also went abroad as often as possible and doing stages at famed restaurants as he could.
His first restaurant Downtownfood opened in 2012. The “New Canadian Bistro” quickly became a favouite for diners and critics alike. It was named by Avenue Magazine as “One of the Best New Restaurants of 2013” and went on to receive several other accolades including being listed in “Canada’s Top 100 Best Restaurants 2015” by MacLean’s magazine.
Chef Darren MacLean received considerable attention in 2014 when he planted a fully integrated rooftop ecosystem with solar-powered drip irrigation and beehives. He grew more than 40 varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables and used the honey to create a craft beer with Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery.
Chef Darren has been an important player in Calgary’s growing food scene, including participating in events including:
– Cook It Raw 2015
– Alberta Treasure Branch’s “A Seat at our Table”
– The Oceanwise 10th Anniversary Collaborative Chef Dinner
– Bronze and a silver medals (2013 & 2014) in Gold Medal Plates, supporting Canada’s high performance athletes
– And many more..
In 2015, he realized a life-long dream by travelling to Japan to experience the culture and cuisine, cooking with famed chefs and families alike. He returned to Canada with a new vision – a Japanese restaurant like Calgary has never seen before – Shokunin (coming later summer 2015).