Darren Caines – Head Chef


Darren Caines – Head Chef (age 43)

Darren has been at sea for 20 years. At the age of 14 he started working part-time in the seafront fish and chip shops, hotels and pubs in Clacton his hometown during the evenings and weekends.

Not knowing what he wanted to do at 16, Darren started a motor vehicle technology course at Colchester Institute and hated it. He swapped to catering realising that he enjoyed this field of work. At the age of 20 Darren moved to Newbury and worked at the well-known Yew Tree Restaurant in Highclere; followed by the Duke of Edinburgh in Ascot as a commis chef. Subsequently Darren joined the Red Lion in Colchester as sous chef. Then Darren started working on ships. He was on the ferries from Felixstowe to Rotterdam for five years, when he was made redundant and went travelling to New Zealand and Australia.

Upon his return Darren joined a temping agency for sea crew. He spent 18 months with the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service. Darren also worked for Trinity House (a company that owns the Mermaid and the Patricia the latter of which is used for Royal functions), passenger ferries and dredging companies.

Darren started working for NERC through the agency 13 years ago on the old Discovery ship. Firstly as a steward, next voyage as 2nd chef and was chief chef on the following BGS expedition (after 15 weeks in total) and offered a full time contract.

Darren loves his job. He likes being able to plan his own menu and deciding what food the scientists and crew will have. He enjoys the camaraderie of living and working with the same people. He feels valued as part of a team (on land Darren feels chefs are in the background – often unacknowledged).

As with most maritime workers Darren gets about month on land for every month he works at sea. (This does vary a little from company to company.)


NVQ level 1 and level 2

College Certificate in patisseries

Ships Cooks Certificates: Part 1, Part 2 and Highers. The Highers certificate is needed to be Chief Chef.

Fire Fighting and First Aid Certificates are also mandatory.

Darren did some of his qualifications at South Tyneside College and some whilst he was working for various companies such as NERC. (Note, NERC has stopped training young chefs but Darren says the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is great for training youngsters.)

Darren’s advice to teenagers today:

Be dedicated, be prepared for graft, it takes a long time, start at the bottom and work your way up. Take summer jobs on the ferries (it might be repetitive but it’s a start). Go your local college and get the NVQ’s and work part time in a local restaurant. Listen, learn and keep your head down whilst you work hard. You have to want to do it, have passion.


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