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Busboy Dreams to Casino Cuisine

Written by Annie Harmon

Photos courtesy of Nugget Casino Resort


Nevada-born Chef Darrin McKillip started his career at age 17 as a busboy at the Mirror Montage. McKillip, who always had a natural talent for cooking, was eager to learn more. 


“I was bussing tables and I was bored to tears,” Mckillip said, “I knew I was meant for cooking.” 



McKillip attended the Western Culinary School later in his career. After having worked at three different hotels, McKillip said he went to culinary school to find out what he didn’t know.


“What I really got from culinary school was the ability to teach,” he said, “but it is not necessarily the answer,” 


McKillip says the best way to learn the business is to get out there and learn as much as you can from different chefs and different businesses. 


McKillip also worked as Executive Chef at Circus Circus Casino for 17 years. His job included managing 400 employees and all the restaurants scattered throughout the casino. 

“What’s great about a casino is you get to experience many more styles than standing restaurants,” McKillip said. 


McKillip is currently US Foods Direct Sales Manager for Casinos. But, recently he proved that he’s still one of the best chefs in Reno at the Nugget Casino’s 2018 Cuisine, Corks and Crafts Fest. McKillip took home first place in the Battle Born Chefs competition.


McKillip said he hadn’t been in a competition like it since culinary school and “it was the most fun I’ve had in a while.”


From his broad experience in managing casinos to his competition wins and education background, McKillip is a great inspiration to young chefs. Through his own career, he has seen that chefs often go unappreciated, but he firmly believes cooking to be a noble occupation. 


His advice to young chefs; “Love what you do and don’t apologize for it.”