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Chris Johnson Leaves Ramsons

Controversial restaurant hero leaves the trade after several millenia

Written by . Published on March 22nd 2014.

Chris Johnson Leaves Ramsons

CHRIS JOHNSON, food industry stalwart and general good egg, is to leave Ramsons.

The Ramsbottom restaurant has been a multi-award winning and Good Food Guide constant for 27 years.

71-year-old Johnson has only been in the trade since 1962, lazy sod. That’s 52 years of graft and achievement. Two generations.

As revealed below he might be leaving Ramsons but will still be maintaining links with his love of quality food and drink.

"There’s a wonderful orchard there and they do beautiful raspberries too. I want a new direction and I’m still young to do something that cheers me up.”

The business he cared for and crafted into a beacon of Northwestern culinary brilliance, is being given, lock, stock and barrel to Louise Varley, a long-term friend and colleague of Johnson, and currently co-director and chef at Ramsons.

Chris Johnson is a hero of the food trade. A legend. 

“I’ve always been passionate about food and wine, about its authenticity, fascinated by what it delivers, how it’s produced and prepared. Of course this has sometimes meant I’ve come across as an arrogant bolshie sod,” says Johnson.

The passion was refreshing, the bolshiness rare. If people had really thought ill of Johnson’s methods then the decades of success at Ramsons wouldn’t have been possible. What Johnson has brought to the trade is character, vivacity and knowledge, three key ingredients when delivering worthwhile dining experiences.

Not that the occasional flash of irritation hasn't proved entertaining. Back in 2005 I edited the City Life Food and Drink Guidebook to Greater Manchester and included quotes from key restaurant figures in the region.

Looking back at Chris Johnson's quote it reads, “Any bastard who tells my chef how to cook can fuck off.”

Tripadvisor, eat your ill-informed nasty little heart out. Give me that any day.

Chris Not Being Bolshy

Chris Johnson not being bolshy 

With Abdulla Nazeem, or ‘Naz’, in the kitchen for several years you could understand Johnson's occasional irritation with dolts. The pair produced a truly memorable restaurant experience with a modern European menu, chocker with the best ingredients and big Italian influences. In 2009 it was the Good Food Guide restaurant of the year, a couple of years later it won winelist of the year.

Confidential sold out many memorable meals in Ramsons for readers. One included seared Shetland scallops, matched with Bucci, wood pigeon breast, matched with Autari (Barbera), brown shrimp (Morecambe Bay) ravioli, with Boca di Rosa (an Umbrian ‘pink’), Lyme Park venison with a Cabernet Sauvignon di Colli de Berici and the British cheese board with vintage port. Wow.

So what’s Chris Johnson going to do next?

He’s putting himself out to pasture.

“Since my wife Roz died three years ago I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been fascinated by farming all my life, so I’m going to work with Tom Parkinson at Clifton’s Farm in Inglewhite, not far from Goosnargh.

"This is a dairy farm with foundations that go back a thousand years - so not quite as old as me – and it provides the most outstanding Jersey milk. I’ll be living on the farm, helping with sales. There’s a wonderful orchard there and they do beautiful raspberries.

"I want a new direction and I’m still young enough to do something that cheers me up.”

He’s 71, he’s saying this.

Fabulous fella. 

Back at Ramsons Johnson might nip in occasionally and help with the wines but it’s, as he says, “a clean break.”

“I leave the restaurant in good hands with Louise. Her food is deceptively simple and tastes wonderful, she’s about the way food tastes not looks. She should thrive. I'm delighted she's taking it on.

“During April I’m going to have a long farewell party and get everybody to come along. I have a few dozen special bottles that I may be forced to open.”

Confidential wishes Chris Johnson all the best and hopes the raspberries appreciate the arrogant, bolshie sod.

We’ll be up in April to help with those bottles.

Nosh from a Manchester Confidential readers meal a couple of years or so agoNosh from a Manchester Confidential readers meal a couple of years or so ago

Ramsons foodRamsons food

Ramsons foodRamsons food

Ramsons foodRamsons food

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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