Chef Darren Veilleux Of Sails Shares His Journey To Becoming “Best Chef In Naples”

Executive Chef Darren Veilleux sheds light on his journey to Sails, his awards, hobbies and love for the hospitality industry.

Photo Credit: Sails

Haute Living: Where are you originally from? 

Chef Darren Veilleux: I am originally from Winslow, Maine. I was there for 15 years before going to school. 

HL: How did you get into the culinary industry? 

CDV: When I was in school I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do. It was the end of highschool for me and I was deciding where to go to college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a local school or not, but I got a kick start figuring out exactly where I wanted to be. This is when I quickly learned about schools and what suits me best and realized that’s how I realized exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do!

HL: What inspired you to become a chef?

CDV: Cooking with my Grandma. For her, baking and cooking is a big hobby, she’s still alive today and loves to make desserts. Just doing basic cookies with her, I was young and it was fun but I wasn’t sure at that exact time that I wanted to do it professionally. 

Photo Credit: Sails

HL: What are your grandmother’s roots? 

CDV: My Grandma is French Canadian. 

HL: What brought you to Naples, Florida? 

CDV: Sails opening up brought me to Naples! Prior Head Chef  and I worked together in Rhode Island where I went to school. Him and I worked together in Rhode Island where I went to school. Jacob asked me to join Sails’ opening team, in the beginning I said no way and then I called him a week later and said let’s do it! I sold basically everything I had in my apartment and drove my car across the country to do Sails. Sails was under construction at the time I had arrived so there wasn’t much to be done in the kitchen at first. I was given a few odd jobs which I took on each and every time.. This building needed new crown molding so I assisted there, when shipments would arrive I would help unpack the boxes and assist in any way I possibly could. I took on many odd jobs, I even would make runs all the way to the Miami airport when supplies and shipments arrived there. Whatever needed to be done, it was me.

Photo Credit: Sails

HL: Why did you choose to chef at Sails? 

CDV: Jacob Jasinski. He really sold the restaurant to me. There was nothing to go off of, nothing was published or written about Sails just yet, he sold me the story of everything being ‘Sail’  related and that this was the next spot for me to be.

HL: Who was your mentor?

CDV: My mentor was Thomas Delle Donne. I learned so much after graduating school and honestly it was truly about the connections I made. You know you can only learn so much in school. Learning from Thomas, he was a great friend, great teacher and great mentor all around. He truly showed me how to be better and not settle for anything less than greatness. 

Photo Credit: Sails

HL: When you aren’t working, where do you spend your free time?

CDV: I like to go to Miami. Or just go to the beach and just relax outside of work. I like exploring new restaurants and to walk around the city, explore by myself whether that be exploring the menus at new restaurants, sitting at the bar, meeting someone new, it’s really really fun for me to explore. 

HL: How old are you? 

CDV: I am 29, I turn 30 in August. 

HL: What other restaurants do you like to frequent in Naples?

CDV: Continental is my favorite restaurant. I love Bar tulia, that’s about it. Lowbrown pizza would be third. If you like beer you’d like this spot. It’s cool because they support a lot of craft breweries. Love their beer and pizza. 

HL: How do you create the menu? 

CDV: We focus as much on seasonality as possible, we want to showcase seasons as much as possible. Ingredients and product itself, we source the product and what best showcases it. We never hide the product or anything we are using for that matter, just simple flavors that elevate each and every dish big or small. For example, the North halibut during summertime. Just by adding a little bit of summerness to it we are able to let the fish speak for itself and highlight the freshness of it especially in the summer season. 

Photo Credit: Sails

HL: What is your favorite item on the menu? 

CDV: The new halibut dish actually! It is a new addition. Seasonally it won’t be on the menu forever. However, my ultimate favorite dish is the Tagtielle. It has roasted mushrooms as well as sunchip puree which adds sweetness and honey that you normally don’t get from a root vegetable. It’s absolutely delicious. We also make fresh pasta everyday, they all go together really nicely with a piave cheese which is a young parmesan. It was one of the first dishes I created as sous chef. It’s still really great to this day, I love making it. 

HL: What has been your most rewarding experience at Sails? 

CDV: I just received the best chef in Naples! Sooo that was really huge. I came down here as a sous chef and thought it was just going to be me and the executive chef at the time, Jacob. I had just left a position where I had to work really hard and grow. I wanted to be the top and best that I could be. Never settle for greatness. Originally, there was four sous chefs and I was one of them when I had thought it was just me and another. Honestly, working hard at Sails, all the odd jobs for the opening, just putting in all the hard work has really paid off and that is how I was able to achieve where I am so far. Next is to get a Michelin to Naples and then we will get awarded a Michelin Star!