Merlin Labron-Johnson Experience After brief stints working at a cookery school and a few local restaurants, Merlin Labron-Johnson knew he wanted to be a chef by the age of 16. He secured a kitchen job at a ski resort and moved to Switzerland at 18 to begin his formal training with the fundamentals of fine dining. From there, Merlin went to France to work at The Albert Premier Hotel in Chamonix, where he learned classic French techniques. He landed in the Belgian countryside eight months later at the renowned modern restaurant In de Wulf. Working under head chef Kobe Desramaults, who cooked without thermometers, timers, or recipes, proved to have the most profound effect on Merlin’s own cooking style. After two years in rural Belgium and rising to sous chef, he moved to London for a change of pace. Merlin soon partnered with restaurateurs Will Lander and Dan Morgenthau to open Portland in 2015. In 2017, he took over the kitchen of The Conduit, a private club for “social entrepreneurs” committed to making positive social and environmental change. Merlin also devoted a year to working with charities such as Help Refugees, Food For Soul, and the Felix Project, Chef Massimo Bottura’s soup kitchen for the homeless. He left Portland, Clipstone, and The Conduit to move to the countryside and work on Osip, which reconnected him to the agriculture, landscape, and wilderness of his youth. Education At age 16, Merlin worked as a chef’s assistant at the Ashburton Cookery School, which introduced him to the discipline of a professional chef’s kitchen. About Food & Wine Food & Wine, a Dotdash Meredith Brand, is an award-winning online resource for anyone passionate about the culinary world. With rigorously tested recipes and the most trusted restaurant, drinks, culinary travel and home coverage, we inspire and empower people everywhere to discover, create, and devour the best in food and wine. Learn more about us and our editorial process.