Tributes paid to popular Lancaster chef

Craig Johnson and his fiancee Rebecca Farquhar.
Craig Johnson and his fiancee Rebecca Farquhar.

Tributes are being paid to Craig Johnson who died on Wednesday February 11 from suspected gun shot wounds.

The 30 year-old award-winning chef who worked at The Sun Hotel in Lancaster was a well known figure in the community.

Matt Jackson, Lancaster Brewery boss and Craig’s colleagues at The Sun have released this moving tribute.

“On the early hours of Wednesday 11th February, Craig Johnson, 30, celebrated chef and friend to thousands, sadly died at his home where he lived with his fiancée Rebecca.

“It has left all that knew him so shocked and empty as his very being filled so many lives. We all truly believe that he was oblivious to how many life long friends he had amassed in such a short life.

“We got to know him when he came to Lancaster from his home town of Grimsby 11 years ago at the age of 19. After working at, the Borough and the Water Witch, he finally settled at the Sun Hotel where his abilities were allowed to be let lose. He exploited that freedom to absolutes.

“On Wednesday evening, several of those that knew and loved him seemed to magnetically gather together at his last place of work, to piece together their thoughts on his extraordinary life.

“It was clear to all there, if nothing else, with the scale of mourners in shock that he truly was a one off, a remarkable individual.

“How did just one person do so much and help so many?

“His passion was cooking, but more importantly being involved in actually sourcing his food himself, and then to his joy, the service and the delivery, to show off his skills and make people happy.

“Walking into the vaults and cellars of the Sun was not for the squeemish as it could come as a bit of a shock to the unaware or uninitiated to Craig’s domain.

“Pheasants, rabbits, sea bass, wood pigeon to name but a few. Curing salting hanging filleting skinning was pretty much his time off.

“He was constantly trading his services for produce or the rights to source game. One of his numerous skills.

“He always seemed to have nets out in the bay, shooting trips on or perhaps just spot lighting on his friends’ farms.

“He would abuse all the suppliers facilities by doing a range of misplaced activities that no other chef I know would care to be bothered with.

“He had to make his own sausages, butcher his own beasts. Even with a mere couple of hours off he could be found helping lambing to, dare I say a spot of poaching in a babbling brook he was spying on his cycle home.

“He was unstoppable, a modern day Duracell bunny.

“Although he revelled in presenting a gruff unapproachable exterior, that never ever lasted as he was a lovable softy.

“Once that facade was broken, he could never be thought of as anything other than what was truly him, a genuine man with a massive talent which was so engaging, it embraced all.

“We laugh about his passion now about the times according to him perfection was not met. Silly things that make us smile then and now include from the minor to the massive. Examples include when he wouldn’t allow his scotch eggs out as to his mind, they were overlooked, they were amazing so everyone just barged into the kitchen to take them despite his annoyance!

“He was hilarious when his profiteroles were falling from his chicken wire tower. Try to imagine the most comical of scenes.

“Craig was beside himself in worry whereas people were just gobsmacked at his audacity, his creative imagination, the scale of his projects. He was devastated that some didn’t stick! This was a 6 foot wire tower!

“It was this truly creative talent and emotion what embraced him to us. Genius, adventurer, challenger... Craig our friend.. The list of his crazy ideas is stuff of legend and quite possibly won’t be seen again.

“The pressure that Craig put on himself, clearly became too much. He lost his brother tragically eight months ago and the inquest that left an open verdict on the very same day he took his life was clearly a button pushed that no one saw coming.

“Such a tragedy, such a loss. So senseless.

“Craig, our message to you is that if only you can understand now all of our thoughts of you, then you will rest well, safe in the knowledge that you never ever realised how we all felt.

“As you examined your flaws we marvelled in you, your endearment, your talent. You never understood just who you were. The greatest! One only hopes that you are truly at rest now.

“There is a collection running at the Sun in Lancaster for those that I am sure want to remember his name.

“Proceeds will be going to his brother Ben’s family, to the children Daisy and London who are lost even more now without a father and now an uncle.”