Collin Darrell was only nine years old when he started washing dishes at a local farmer’s market in Philadelphia. (He wanted a new bicycle and wound up making enough money to buy two cars.) From there, he got a job working at a pizza shop— first as a dishwasher, then a pizza maker— and then opened a coffee kiosk at a train station. And he was still in high school. “I think what it did was show me the possibilities,” says Darrell, now 31 and creative director of Grow Culture, a Kaua‘i-based company that links chefs and farmers through innovative events. “I knew the experience was what you made of it.” It wasn’t until he was attending The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and running a promotion company that he got interested in wine. He took a wine class taught by a passionate master sommelier, then worked for veteran sommelier Michael McCauley at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Philadelphia. “I had this incredibly door-opening experience,” he says. After a stint at James on 8th, he took a job as general manager and sommelier at the now-defunct Cassis by Chef Mavro in downtown Honolulu, learning from Mavrothalassitis about the art of food and beverage pairing. He continues to do this with the pop-up dinners he organizes on Kaua‘i. “The synergy between food and beverages at restaurants are few and far between,” he says. “I really believe in this.”
What is your tattoo?
Darrell has a full sleeve on his right arm of various corkscrews and leaves of Nebbiolo, a red Italian grape variety predominated associated with the Piedmont region.
When did you get it?
He got his first tattoo in 2010 and continues to add to it. He estimates he’s spent at least 25 hours in the chair already.
What was the inspiration?
Darrell chose Nebbiolo grapes because he appreciated the fact that they were so region-specific. “That sense of place was important to me,” he says. And he picked corkscrews because it represented his love for wine and food pairings and it was a symbol of a technological advancement in the industry that’s around now but may not be later. “Plus, they’re beautiful, mechanical devices,” he says. “I wanted something that shows more artisanship and personality. It’s a tool of my trade, the way chefs have knives. It’s the kind of thing you keep in your pocket all the time. It’s really my tool.”