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Meet the chef: Daren Liew, executive head chef at Blue Jasmine in Southampton

By Natasha Heard  |  June 25, 2021
Chef Daren Liew

As a contemporary Chinese chef with 25 years’ experience in Cantonese and Asian cuisine at the highest level, chef Daren Liew is an enthusiastic and passionate leader whose love of food extends beyond the kitchen. Whether in a high-volume, a la carte menu kitchen or a banquet service catering for thousands, chef Daren can perform to the highest standards, catering for top-level guests.

In his current role as executive head chef at Blue Jasmine Food Ltd, Daren has handcrafted a unique menu concept of Southeast Asian inspiration combined with local Hampshire ingredients. He has constructed an elegant fine dining concept and shaped a team of highly skilled chefs for this venture.

Between seasonal menu changes, Daren expresses his skill and passion by creating bespoke menus for VIP guests, continuously receiving the highest praise for his outstandingly imaginative combination of flavours. Daren has been an imperative part of the Blue Jasmine story and will undoubtedly continue to flourish in this setting.

Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine is located in Southampton’s Ocean Village Marina

In 2019, Daren embarked on his venture of his own consultancy company. DL Cuisine Concepts is a successful consultancy, aiding businesses in menu design, new openings, staff development, supplier sourcing and more. This well-rounded business reflects all that Daren has practiced in the past years, combining his passion, skill and talent into a package to distribute his skills and expertise.

His strong technical skills are complemented by a strong flair for creativity and innovation, which are both evidenced by his role as Good Earth Hong Kong Restaurant’s development chef where he was in charge of creating new dishes and sauces as well as maintaining the company’s current sauce standards. In addition to this, he is the chef ambassador for Lee Kum Kee, a renowned Asian hospitality company, specialising in Asian sauces as well as being a platform for chefs and operators in the hospitality industry.

Daren constantly seeks to widen his culinary horizons and, outside the kitchen, is a member of a number of culinary organisations including The International Exchange Association of Renowned Chinese Cuisine Chefs, The Chaine Des Rottiseur Bailage Malaise and participates in international Chinese Cuisine competitions for example winning the ‘Special Gold Award’ in the 2013 World Chinese Chef Competition.

Blue Jasmine
The Blue Jasmine menu showcases the best of Asian cuisine

Daren’s years of experience in high-end and Michelin kitchens has shaped him to who he is today. His past career highlights include the role of executive sous chef at Hakkasan Ltd London, playing an instrumental part in the opening of Hakkasan’s first franchise ‘Ling Ling’ in Mykonos, Greece. In addition to this, his role as executive chef at Duddell’s London, where he headed the launch and opening of Duddell’s London, the first overseas branch of Michelin-starred fine dining Cantonese restaurant Duddell’s Hong Kong.

We caught up with Daren to find out all about his favourite foods, his biggest inspiration and how he enjoys visiting various markets on his travels.

What or who inspired you to become a chef?

My father runs a small family restaurant in Malaysia, he is what inspired me to begin my culinary journey.

What is your signature dish?

My signature dish is the 72-hour prepared cherry wood smoked Sarawak roasted duck.

What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?

The combination of ingredients and nice presentation are my first priorities when crafting a menu.

Blue Jasmine
Each dish is expertly prepared and plated

Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward working with?

For me personally, I don’t have, but I love the challenge of getting the ingredients suddenly, and the ingredients from the each and unique place to play with, for example, when I travel to a place and suddenly have a unique ingredient.

What is your favourite ingredient to prepare?

For me it is fresh mushroom, because the uniqueness and each characteristic of every mushroom is really different, as well as the way of cooking and temperature executions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

If I weren’t a chef, I would most probably become an artist.

What is your favourite food to cook at home?

I always cook some authentic Malaysia curry chicken, with all the fresh ingredients, fresh curry leaf, lemongrass and make it with pandan leaf rice.

duck Blue Jasmine
Daren’s signature dish is the 72-hour prepared cherry wood smoked Sarawak roasted duck

When are you happiest?

I am happy when I visit the fresh markets of new countries. I love to go travelling and experience new flavours and speak to the locals about their food.

When you’re not in the kitchen, where can you be found?

I love to wonder around markets and other places where you can find antique cutlery and other tableware.

What is your favourite takeaway or comfort food?

Indian takeaway is my favourite, because the food is full of different spices and styles of cooking.

Where is your favourite restaurant to dine in?

For high-end dining, I always go to Joel Robuchon/ Ledbury for the tasting menu, while for mid-end, I love to go Goldmine Chinese restaurant at Bayswater.