Chef Fernando Darin at Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA
Upon first meeting Chef Fernando Darin, you may be surprised to hear that he has a dedicated and active yoga practice. As Executive Chef of Ray’s & Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Chef Darin is in constant motion. This is the case whether he is preparing the perfect pizza, plating dishes for one of the many events hosted on the LACMA campus, or developing innovative recipes and programs. These include launching exclusive recipes for the restaurant’s patio-located weekend Barky Brunch (which includes menu dishes for people and pups).
The handcrafted pizzas and dog-friendly menu aren’t the only distinguishing features of Ray’s and Stark Bar. Chef Darin has a commitment to farm-to-table cuisine. There are even raised garden beds located behind the kitchen where Chef Darin grows such delights as herbs and edible flowers that are used in the restaurant on a daily basis.
Originally from Brazil, Chef Darin hails from an Italian family (hence, his love of pizza and pasta). Before making a professional commitment to the culinary world, he was a musician who traveled the world. LA was always a favorite city and it was where he landed for culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. That was more than 10 years ago and now the City of Angels is his home. It may be unsurprising that Chef Darin experienced his first yoga class here. He took some time amidst his busy schedule to talk to us about how his yoga practice has affected his work in a busy kitchen and his approach to food.
Chef Fernando Darin and Yoga Practice
How did you discover yoga and begin your own practice?
I started about a year ago. At first, I was skeptical about it; I never thought it would work. My workouts at the time consisted basically of lifting weights and playing other sports. And the perceptions that I had about yoga were completely wrong.
Then I went in to class and got my ass kicked. I remember thinking, “I’m never coming back to this.” Three days later I was back and I haven’t stopped.
How does your experience and background as a musician connect to your yoga practice?
I feel that yoga helps my creativity and that reflects in the way I play music. The mental clarity and enhanced breathing definitely have an impact on how my brain channels creativity.
Do you have go-to yoga places to practice in LA?
I practice at Modo Yoga, on La Brea.
What are some places in LA where you enjoy spending your time off?
I love Los Angeles; it’s my favorite city in the world. Just by being able to live and work here, I feel grateful. Chefs don’t really have a lot of time off. But when I do, I like going to the beach, dining out and of course, yoga.
Chef Fernando Darin on Yoga and the Kitchen
Has your yoga practice affected what you eat at home?
I consider myself a flexitarian, and I have always liked to have a clean, more plant-based diet. Yoga goes hand-in-hand with what I believe about eating: Your diet must be balanced. It doesn’t matter if you’re vegan or if your choice of protein comes from animals.
Every single bite of food that goes into our mouths is based on choices that we make. That is the most important thing for me. With people’s busy schedules in the modern world, sometimes we forget to think about what we’re putting in our body, or to question where that food comes from.
How has your yoga practice had an impact on your daily life?
Chefs work in a very stressful environment. We stand 98% of the time, sometimes for 14 or 15 hours each day. I find that the yoga postures are amazing to fix any back or leg pains.
A big part of my job is to create balanced flavors and textures in the food. Yoga also fits in with this since a lot of the focus of yoga is about balance.
How has yoga influenced your approach to your professional life?
My yoga practice reaches a very deep level of self-awareness and well-being. If I’m feeling complete and mentally strong, it’s easier to solve problems, to be creative, and to be more approachable to guests.
Chef Fernando Darin at Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA
What kind of personal touches have you brought to being the Executive Chef at Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA?
When I took over Ray’s and Stark Bar, I like to think I brought a deeper sense of care about the food and a bigger focus on teamwork. Sometimes with our busy jobs and crazy lives, we forget to look around. We start taking things for granted. Most of the cooks who were in the kitchen had this same issue. Primarily, I taught the cooks and chefs that, yes it’s possible to work while being happy.
How do you incorporate the bounty from the garden in menu items?
It depends on the season. When the garden is full of edible flowers, we use those in dishes.
What are some of your favorite recipes?
In the past year, I’ve gone deep on making pizzas. And I have truly found passion in it. Every single thing about pizza, from making the perfect dough that takes 48 hours to be ready, to baking it in a just-right 800 degree oven.
Chef Fernando Darin on Cooking for Love
What are some of the favorite dishes you like to create for yourself and your family and/or friends?
It absolutely doesn’t matter what am I cooking or for whom I am cooking. All food needs to be treated with the same respect, from a lettuce to a steak. And it has to be cooked with love and care. Call me crazy, but I notice when someone made a plate of food when they are angry.
Growing up in Brazil in an Italian family, are there any secrets you learned about having a healthy home kitchen that you can pass on to our readers?
Yes absolutely! First, NO processed food. Everyone should know the basics of how to prepare food. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s a skill that comes fairly easily with very little practice.
Processed food is terrible for your body, and it is extremely addictive.
Buy local. Buy organic. And buy sustainable.
Learn More about Ray’s and Stark Bar
Museum admission is not required to eat at the restaurant, which features indoor and outdoor seating.
Barky Brunch is held Saturday and Sunday 10am-3pm.
Follow @raysandstarkbar on IG for more news and updates.