What food do they serve in a casino? Stake and chips. I came up with that joke before I interviewed David Jarrett, chef at Rendezvous Casino, when I realised he is trained in French cuisine.

The fact is, booking a table at the Rendezvous restaurant or bistro is a gamble worth taking.

You may go in with preconceived ideas of bowling alley style chips-in-a-basket food, but David is a passionate chef with a distinguished background, having worked in five-star hotels, cooked for the Royal family at various functions and was former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay’s personal chef for three years.

“I love meeting people and I love cooking food. It’s a passion,” he enthuses.

“I like doing the higher-end stuff because, as a dad, my kids would never let me eat that when they were at home. But that’s what interests me.

“People do have those preconceived ideas about the type of food you’d find in a casino. But you can come here, even if you’re not gambling and you’ll be impressed.”

Rendezvous Casino boasts separate a la carte restaurant and a newly refurbished bistro, called the Strip, in honour of its Americana-inspired food, David has had a major hand in developing the menus. It is a big job which keeps him interested in the job at hand.

“My wife has been bugging me all my life to open my own place,” he says.

“I looked into it a few times but it’s so much hassle. Being a chef is hassle enough, as it is!

“One reason I came here was because I liked working in London and those standards are expected here and I get to make my mark.

“Our casino group has nine chefs in England and same in America, but we all have different menus. We can cater for what our customers like.”

The casino group he is referring to is Caesar’s Entertainment, owners of the world famous Caesar’s Palace in bright light city, Las Vegas.

What do customers like eating between the roulette stakes and a quick go on the slot machines?

The a la carte restaurant, Elements, can be booked by non-members and you don’t have to be playing to get a table.

It has live music on a Monday, roasts on a Sunday and a new range of specials throughout the week. Mains include pan-fried halibut steak on wilted spinach accompanied by tarragon butter sauce, free range pork from the Suffolk-based Blythburgh farm, and popular Casterbridge steaks.

The recently launched bistro, the Strip, offers a more informal choice, built around the fashion for American food.

Its name evokes the Strip in Las Vegas, aligning it with some of the biggest and most glamorous casinos in the world.

“Food goes round is fashions,” David says.

“In the Seventies and Eighties it was French food, then nouveau cuisine, in the Nineties you had the rise of Italian, then the British explosions.

“Now everyone is eating American, so we’ve changed it to keep it fresh.”

The Strip is open daily from 5pm until 2am and is an informal companion to the upmarket Elements.

Chicken New York style is proving popular, as are the chargilled Vegas burgers and spicy chicken fajitas.

Mezze-style starters sit alongside wraps, baguettes and omelettes and beer battered onion rings and Rossi ice cream.

Most of the food is designed to be carried out onto the gaming floor and there is also a diverse cocktail menu.

David, 55, has been at the casino for more than 13 years and has been a chef for 40 years in total.

He built up an impressive resume after starting as a day release chef on a college catering course. His trick? Keep it simple and interesting.

“I never do anything on a weekday I couldn’t do on a Saturday night,” he says.

“You know how it is in restaurants. Everyone turns up at eight asking to be fed at the same time – no matter what time they actually booked.”

Despite his quirky residency in the casino, he is not a betting man.

“I don’t have anything to do with that side and I don’t look at people and try and work out if they are gamblers or not,” he says.

“I just love being a chef and I’m a terrible morning person, so the hours suit me.”

A keen West Ham fan, David is enjoying his club’s good start to the season and welcomes the imminent move to the Olympic Stadium, a signal of progress he is keen to emulate in his kitchen.

“You have to move on or things get boring,” he says, referring to his shiny new menu.

“I like to think I know our customers now and what they like and when it’s time for a change.

“As for West Ham, it’s a good start. I still wouldn’t bet on them though!”

l For more information, southend.rendezvouscasino.com