Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson
Passionate about the future of food, Merlin Labron-Johnson is a young British chef on a mission. Supporting and championing a number of charitable and altruistic initiatives, Labron-Johnson works to create conversation around food and address key issues, both within his community and beyond. He is currently the UK’s youngest to hold a Michelin star.
Head chef of Portland when it launched in 2015, here Labron-Johnson gained a Michelin-star just 9 months after opening, at the age of 24. He went on to garner critical acclaim across the board for Portland and sister restaurant Clipstone (August 2016).
Cutting his teeth at two Michelin starred Albert 1er in Chamonix and cult one star restaurant In De Wulf in Belgium, Labron-Johnson honed his skills throughout Europe prior to moving to London. Led by seasonal produce and inspired by nature, Labron-Johnson’s cooking is clean yet informal and abundant; shunning trends in favour of compelling dishes. His food is imaginative yet refined, combining a consummate understanding of classic French techniques with modern sensibilities.
Committed to culinary excellence whilst minimising wastage, Labron-Johnson’s approach sees fruit and herb trimmings, animal fats, offal and bones reintegrated into his menus.
Passionate about charity work, much-valued time off is often spent cooking at the Refettorio Felix center for homeless people, using produce rejected by supermarkets, and also contributing to the Chef’s Manifesto, in support of the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Chef of the Year - London Restaurant Festival 2016 (Merlin Labron-Johnson)30 Under 30, ones to watch - CODE Hospitality (Merlin Labron-Johnson)One star - Michelin Guide (Portland)
Bib Gourmand - Michelin Guide (Clipstone)
Restaurant of the Year - GQ Awards, 2017 (Clipstone)What the critics think...
“Portland is a perfect restaurant” 10/10 review Giles Coren, The Times Magazine (Portland, 2015)
“This is all the best of modern eating, with the nonsense, pretension and snobbery left out” – AA Gill, The Sunday Times – 5 star review (Portland, March 2015)
“The most compelling menu I’ve seen for a long time ... exciting, economically brave but gastronomically astute. It’s the work of a chef who wants to impress” – AA Gill, The Sunday Times – 5 star review of Clipstone (September 2016)
“The food is so superbly good” – Jay Rayner, The Observer (Clipstone, September 2016)“Gold medal for the dessert of Paris-Brest” - Fay Maschler, Evening Standard (Clipstone,
“I think I’m a little bit in love with Clipstone. It’s the least shouty restaurant I’ve been to in ages with cooking worth yelling about” - Tim Hayward, FT Weekend (Clipstone, October 2016)
Working alongside the UN’s SDG2 Advocacy Hub, Merlin is helping to create a Chef’s Manifesto. Written by a community of chefs around the world, the Manifesto will be a set of actions that drive progress against the food issues that matter most, whilst also contributing towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Additionally, Merlin recently helped launch the global Social Gastronomy movement in Miami, for which he is a UK ambassador. He is also an active chef within the Food for Soul charity network launched by Massimo Bottura and much of his spare time is spent cooking for homeless people at the Refettorio Felix, using produce rejected by supermarkets and wholesalers.
A long-term champion of sustainable agriculture, Labron-Johnson endeavours to support small-scale, independent producers within his community and across the UK. With the opening of his new restaurant at The Conduit this summer, Labron-Johnson will take this one step further with an all-encompassing approach to British food production and waste elimination. Working with a London-based farmer, Merlin will launch a new initiative; turning any non-edible food waste into compost to grow organic crops that he will then incorporate back into his menus on a daily basis. Working closely with the Sustainable Restaurant Association throughout, the restaurant will adhere to the most rigorous practices.
The Restaurant at The Conduit will launch in September 2018.
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