The Incarnations of Darby Piquette
Chef de Cuisine / ONE Restaurant
Darby Piquette talks about OCD with refreshing, encouraging insight: It was never an obstacle to his success; it was rather its source. His one-fits-all philosophy of action – set at 110% – is 1. obsess and devour the subject 2. master it, and 3. do not sacrifice anything else you love doing in the meantime. Starting at the age of 15, washing dishes in a restaurant in his native Aurora, he learned fast and well from the owner who spotted his unusual drive, interest in food, and work ethic. And typically, despite double-shift work and going to school at the same time, he held fast to his role as drummer in a touring rock band on weekends.
Fast forward to the fall of 2007 when a friend casually mentioned a need for temporary help at the newly-opened ONE Restaurant in Yorkville (another culinary gem from the venerable restaurateur Chef Mark McEwan); day 2 he was hired full-time. The rest is history – but not your straight-line history – rather history as written by Darby…
This is how it goes: Darby’s determined vision had him working every position in the restaurant but the exhausting, depleting overnights drove him to a crisis of spirit. His answer: go to the School of Circus Arts – master hand balancing, static trapeze and silks – give it the usual 110%! Renewed, six months later he went back to ONE full-time, and in short shrift he brilliantly made his way up becoming Chef de Cuisine, responsible for the breadth and integrity of the complete menu.
Along the way, Darby decided to diarize his life and philosophy by way of a full-body tattoo, the thematic centrepiece stretching across his whole back: Buddha (the Master of peace of mind) is sitting by the river of evil; the tattoo is dotted with small menacing figures, effigies of the hardships and temptations of life. And also along the way, because he is obsessed with the Samurai culture, Darby studied, practiced, collected, and in time, attained the level of Master of the Sword – the sword being the central symbol of respect, tradition and mastery.
The influence of Eastern thought is a constant reference in Darby’s conversation: transcendence beyond anger and temptation, focus on clarity and control, the selflessness required in perfecting one’s peace of mind. Lovingly and graciously, he refers to practising this philosophy as his way of “self-medicating.” His natural and spiritual respectfulness towards others translates as deep regard for his friend and mentor, Andrew Ellerby, Executive Chef at ONE; and he modestly offers his clientele his friendship, and honours their personal requests with acquiescence.
This acquiescence, he comments, is the new face of Yorkville. Decades ago a chef might be rigid and self-protective of his menu. The younger generation wouldn’t have the money to indulge and were ignored in the more exclusive venues. Today Darby sees his singular and most important goal in pleasing his patrons – whatever their particular requests. He socializes with the older, established clientele as much as he welcomes their children, the younger, hip generation. Wisely, he concludes, this is the way to build relationships; this is the way to ensure Yorkville’s well-being for the future.
Darby and his girlfriend Amy, the Head Pastry Chef at ONE, are loyal members of the Yorkville community. When they took their dream trip to Europe, they mused on their return that they really yearned to be back “home” in Yorkville. Darby cherishes the “village” character of Yorkville where he knows, greets and catches up daily with fellow villagers; he frequents DBar, Hemingway’s and Serpentine.
When asked where he’d have room for tattoos to commemorate the rest of his life experience, he laughs and assures me that he can always manage another 10%. In his present incarnation he is also training for a Triathalon.
Watch for the documentary; the man is a Superstar.
Darby is 27.
116 Yorkville Ave.
Mon to Fri: 11:30am-4:30pm
Mon to Sun: Service from 4:30pm
Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10:30am-4:30pm
Mon to Fri: 6:30am–11:30am
Sat, Sun, Holidays: 6:30am-10:30am
Bar Menu available daily from 4:30pm to late