When Darren Rockett was 13, he worked as a kitchen porter, and vowed he would never work in a kitchen again.

Yet three years later, he trained and earned a Hotels Chef’s Diploma at Bournemouth and Poole College.

“The difference is, when you come into the kitchen and you get the ingredients and you make something out of it and you think ‘wow’,” explained Darren, who is now head chef at Hotel du Vin on Poole Quay. “Once you see you can do it, you’re hooked.”

Darren set up the kitchen team when the historic Georgian building first opened as Hotel du Vin, having started there in 1996 when it was formerly the Mansion House. While the building was closed for a year for refurbishment in 2008, Darren worked at Hotel du Vins in Brighton, Henley and Winchester. He has also spent time in the kitchens at Gavroche, The Royal Garden and The Ritz in London, Limewood in Lyndhurst and Bournemouth’s Norfolk Royale.

He is currently working on producing dishes for the French-inspired restaurant’s new spring menu, following a quarterly meeting with the brand’s executive chef, and a team of head chefs.

“It is more of a spring menu, but they may tweak for summer,” he explained. “They like to keep our popular dishes, so it’s not normally a massive change. They tweak to the season. Although the dishes can change quite dramatically. It does look fresher.

“I expect on the next menu they will be looking at asparagus, a few more salads. Generally the dishes are lighter and we try to keep everything fresh.”

While the main menu is devised by a team of Hotel du Vins’ top chefs, Darren enjoys putting his own stamp on dishes by creating a range of specials at weekends, which are dictated by seasonal ingredients.

“The goal is trying to divide your time between paperwork and the kitchen to coach people, and to run service. It’s quite important for the team members that have proved themselves to be given chances to move up and develop themselves.

“It’s always challenging, but it’s brilliant.”

Hotel du Vin, in Thames Street, Poole, has a Sunday brunch and market table menu available on Mothering Sunday. To find out more, or to book, visit www.hotelduvin.com or call 0844 748 9265.

Try Darren Rockett’s signature dishes... 


Rub the bottom of a cold pan with a little butter, place in pollock skin-side up, add a tablespoon of chopped shallots, some mussels, season, cover, summer and cook in the oven for five to seven minutes until just cooked. Remove skin from the pollock, add a dash of cream, bring to the simmer and season. Add some Atlantic prawns at the last minute to warm through and serve in a main course bowl with a puff pastry fleuron and chopped parsley.


Wash and dry cod and just cover with cream and garlic and season with pepper. Cover with cling film, simmer and remove from the heat when just cooked. Flake the cod, add dry mash and gently beat in some of the garlic cream and olive oil until you get a consistency you can ball up. Season, add chopped parsley and cool. Ball up and chill. For the sauce, sweat onions, fennel, garlic and thyme in olive oil until soft, add prawns, tomato puree, white wine, steam off mussel and add stock from mussels and lightly season. Cook for 20 minutes, blend and pass through a course strainer. To serve, deep fry the croquettes until golden and finish in the oven for four or five minutes. Heat up the sauce and finish with a little cream. Serve in a warm starter pasta bowl.