Darius Peacock holds dual degrees in business and restaurant management, but for him it’s all about the food, the flavors and the feelings.

The 46-year-old is known for the intriguing flavors he brings to the table, influenced by the kitchens he’s worked in, from the high-pressure restaurants of New York City to the Cherry Hill Hilton, where he was executive chef.

“Everything is a learning experience,” he says. “At one French bistro, the entire staff except myself was Malaysian. We’d cook French food all day, but at the end of the night the employee meal was just crazy, all these new, totally different profiles. That’s what started me doing fusion.”

The most important thing about a great dish, Peacock believes, is that it evokes a happy memory – or thoughts of home.

“I look at food as being nostalgic,” he says. “Somebody should remember something when they taste it.”

Peacock sees food as a metaphor for society. Making different flavors work together, he says, is the same as creating understanding between cultures.

“It’s all about enhancing things by making them work with something very different,” he says. “The more we do it with food, the easier it will be for people to come to the table and talk about their differences, and we’ll find out how much we have in common.”

Peacock’s culinary creativity helped him win on the first season of Chopped. He returned to compete against other Chopped champions, where he again dominated, creating unusual – but delicious – pairings like lobster and bananas.

To prepare for the television competition, Peacock called a friend who’d been the executive chef at his Trenton restaurant Exceptional Taste. Soon, Peacock was in Sicklerville, practicing in front of a live audience: the culinary arts students of Tim Witcher.

(excerpt from SJ Magazine September 2016)