Flash grilled: Merlin Labron-Johnson

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Merlin Labron-Johnson Osip restaurant Bruton fergus Henderson

Related tags: Merlin Labron-Johnson, Restaurant, Fine dining

The chef proprietor of Osip in Bruton and former Portland chef on his admiration for Fergus Henderson, almost getting run over and wanting Simon Hopkinson to cook him his final meal.

What was your first industry job?
Kitchen Assistant at Ashburton Cookery School. I pretended I was 16 to get a job.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I would cultivate vegetables and rear livestock.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
This is a difficult question to answer but I have always had unwavering admiration for Fergus Henderson. His approach to cooking the whole animal, his ability to find flavour and beauty in overlooked or underloved ingredients. I love the way he writes, the way he dresses and the general language and culture of St John.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
I’m not a big fan of plating food with tweezers, micro herbs or anything overly fussy. Two or three perfect ingredients is usually enough to make a great dish, I think.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Vegetable forward, terroir driven, simple yet imaginative.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Work harder than everyone else but be nice to people, all people. Both will get you a long way.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
I love a Le Creuset casserole pot, or cast iron pans. I'm not so into gadgets.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Steak tartare and frites followed by a sticky toffee pudding. All cooked by Simon Hopkinson and washed down with a bucket of negroni.

À la carte or tasting menu?
It depends on the restaurant but mostly a la carte.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Probably my most recent meal at La Grenouillere in France or at Blue Hill in New York.

Favourite fast food joint?
Bleecker burger or on a more commercial level, Shake Shack

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Neither!

Most overrated food?
Sea urchin

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I once got run over by a Porsche on a busy highway whilst intoxicated.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Mexico

What's your tipple of choice?
Negroni

What's your favourite food and drink pairing?
Westcombe Cheddar and ice cider

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