Coming up with a dish to go on a menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant can happen in a flash, or it can take years to perfect. But to come up with eight perfectly balanced courses to be served to over forty people at the same time in just ten days is no mean feat. Especially when each course has to champion the same ingredient in different ways.
But that’s exactly what Merlin Labron-Johnson, head chef of the acclaimed Portland and Clipstone restaurants in London, was asked to do by Marks and Spencer. The event was called The Table, and over two evenings Merlin worked with M&S innovation chef Jon Jones to showcase the retailer’s beef. Everything from the canapés to the dessert needed to highlight the quality and versatility of beef, while Russ Jones from Condiment Junkie added a multi-sensory element to the evening.
‘We had about ten days to put the menu together,’ says Merlin. ‘Working with Jon was really great – we were both quite relaxed about everything and there was certainly no ego or competitiveness. I think we were both slightly relieved that we had someone to share the workload with!’
Marks and Spencer prides itself on its relationships with suppliers, which is why they wanted to put beef in the spotlight. Some of the farms that supply its shops have been doing so since the 1960s, and being able to trace each cut right back to the animal it came from is something the retailer is immensely proud of.