Obituary: Darren Simpson, Belfast-born chef who became an Australian TV star

Darren Simpson, right, with co-hosts on The Best in Australia  (Foxtel via AP)
Darren Simpson, right, with co-hosts on The Best in Australia (Foxtel via AP)
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Darren Simpson, who at 21 became Britain’s youngest ever Young Chef of the Year and has been a TV chef and food writer, has died in 
Australia.

Northern Ireland-born Simpson worked at multiple restaurants in London, Ireland and Australia and appeared on Australian TV’s My Restaurant Rules, Live This and Ready Steady Cook.

“My uncle Darren has passed away. He was truly one of a kind! He was a funny immature, caring guy, gonna miss you and your sick jokes! Love you Uncle Darren,” the chef’s nephew Matt Simpson posted on Facebook.

Simpson died near his home in Byron Bay north of Sydney on Thursday afternoon, Seven Network television reported.

He had recently attempted rehabilitation at a clinic for alcohol addiction before ending up in hospital, it wasreported. The cause of death has not been confirmed.

Simpson grew up in Armoy and Hillsborough outside Belfast, one of three children of publican parents. A family friend who was a chef in 
Bermuda inspired him to make cooking his career.

Australia’s LifeStyle Channel in August planned to broadcast a second series starring Simpson of The Best in Australia,based on a BBC format. Simpson won the prestigious Young Chef of the Year award, open to all British chefs under the age of 25, within two years of landing his first job as a chef. From 1992 to 1999, Simpson worked in restaurants including Michelin-starred Roscoff in Ireland and Le Gavroche in London. He also worked in top London restaurants Clarke’s, Bibendum, River Café and Sartoria.

In 1999, he was head-hunted to become the head chef of Aqua Luna Bar and Restaurant in Sydney. In 2005, he opened the award-winning La Sala an Italian restaurant.

Simpson was awarded Chef of the Year by the Australian Hotels Association in 2011.

Recently he has worked at restaurants in Queensland. The Sydney Morning Herald’s chief restaurant Critic, Terry Durack, praised Simpson’s influence on the local food scene, saying “he brought something new to Sydney”.

“He brought that cocky Irish charm to everything he did, but was actually a big old softie inside,” Durack wrote.

Simpson is survived by his wife Julie and sons Angus, 14, and Hamish, 12.