Chef profile: Damien Worthington, Executive Chef, Reign Champagne Parlour & Bar and Esquire Drink + Dine

Damien Worthington heads up two of Sydney's hot spots for great food and a nice tipple, here's what makes him tick.

Both Reign and Esquire are housed in the iconic QVB in Sydney's CBD and are open until the wee hours of the morning - every night of the week. Yes, that's right, you'll never have to wonder where to go again when doors are shutting and last drinks are being called. 

The man behind the delicious food at both spots sits down with Lifestyle to let us into his world. 

Why did you want to become a chef?

"I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school, but had a part time job in a steak house franchise (Lone Star) and really enjoyed that. My dad said, 'If you like that, why don’t you have a go at being a chef?' The rest is history."

Who is your biggest industry inspiration?

"Aaron Starling – Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne. We started our apprenticeships together over 15 years ago. We are best mates, but a little competitive, so we have always pushed each other to do better. Although he lives in Melbourne, I regularly see the amazing food he puts up on Instagram, which inspires and encourages me to keep going forward."

What’s your go-to kitchen appliance?

"A pasta extruder – it’s a machine that helps mix pasta dough and then pushes it out into various shapes and sizes. It’s great for quickly pushing out great volumes of pasta. At Esquire, we are currently serving a squid ink maccheroni, served with prawns, green olives, chilli and a tomato passata. So the pasta extruder is very useful."

Favourite ingredient to cook with and why?

"Anything beef. I love using it to cook a range of dishes, anything from a nice simple ribeye with either just lemon or a salsa verde on the side to an eight-hour cheek of beef in red wine."

What is your career highlight so far?

"Landing my first Executive Chef role with Trippas White Group for their QVB venues, Reign at the QVB and Esquire Drink + Dine."

What staple meal do you cook regularly at home?

"Pasta. It’s my kids’ favourite, in all shapes and forms. From just plain spaghetti with butter, to a ricotta gnocchi with Amatriciana, a sauce that has tasty flavours from tomato, pecorino cheese and guanciale, which is like a prosciutto."

Can you tell us about the worst cooking blunder you’ve ever had?

"Once, during an event for 65 people, I had a panna cotta for dessert that didn’t quite set. The consistency was like thickened cream! It still tasted and looked good and the guests were happy, but I knew it wasn’t right."

Reign at the QVB is open every day of the week, Sunday to Tuesday until 12am and Wednesday to Saturday until 2am. Esquire Drink + Dine is open every night of the week, Monday to Wednesday until 12am and Thursday to Sunday until 2am. 

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