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Food Network to feature local man

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By Carol A. Clark

Former Los Alamos High School student turned master chef Darren McHale makes his television debut at 8 p.m. Monday on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

McHale presides over the fine dining kitchen at the Standard Diner in Albuquerque.

Popular Food Network show host Guy Fieri learns a thing or two about the fine art of nouvelle diner cuisine from McHale during the 30-minute segment.

“The premise of his show is diners, drive-ins and dives and he got wind that we were doing some good stuff over here at the Standard Diner and he scheduled a segment here,” McHale said. He filmed with us in late 2008 doing a two-day shoot. Both days were 14 hours long but working with Guy was a lot of fun.”

McHale, 31, described Fieri as having a “great personality” and said he had a lot of fun spending those two days with him.

“It was an honor that he chose my restaurant and that he was particularly excited about the menu I’ve created for the Standard Diner.”

Mchale, 31, explained that his menu items require a higher level of skill and execution, which impressed the knowledgeable Fieri.

McHale, 31, is the son of the Monitor’s longtime sports photographer John Mchale. He spoke of how proud he is of his son, saying he’s evolved into a very fine chef who is working in an industry he loves. “We couldn’t be happier for him.”

Spending time in the kitchen at a young age with his grandmother and aunt  helped shape McHale into the fine dining chef he is today, he said.

“I would cook with my Aunt Margaret,” he said. “We’d make pies and I always insisted on making my own. My Grandmother Evelyn Ham was an amazing cook and she inspired me to keep on cooking when things were difficult. She would always ask me if  I was doing my ‘art’ and as I progressed, creating new dishes kept me inspired. Also – I have a love for food.”

McHale got his feet wet in the cooking industry at the local Blue Window Bistro when it was owned by Bill Oswald.

He went on to work at the El Dorado Hotel in Santa Fe where he recalls quickly moving up through the ranks at the Court Kitchen. “I worked with Martin Rios who was nominated New Mexico Chef of the Year in 2008,” McHale said.

He moved on to work in the El Dorado Hotel’s Old House Restaurant for two years before leaving to help friends open The Aussie Cantina in Albuquerque.

“I was down there a lot at the time any way playing hockey for the UNM Ice Wolves,” he said. “Then I became the morning Lead Line Chef for the Artichoke Cafe in Albuquerque where I stayed for four years.”

McHale was hired to serve as Sous Chef at the Seasons Rotisserie and Grill in Old Town before becoming Head Chef at the Standard Diner.

The Standard Diner is located at 320 Central Avenue SE, one block east of Broadway. To learn more, access www.standarddiner.com.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com, 662-4185 ext. 25 or visit her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.