Chef Johnny Leach Departs Clyde Common

It was one of the most anticipated menu makeovers in Portland. But six months in, the former David Chang-empire chef has been relieved of duty at the famed restaurant and craft cocktail bar.

By Karen Brooks May 4, 2014

Chef Johnny Leach

Six months ago, Beaverton native Johnny Leach was tapped to reboot Clyde Common's menu with the departure of longtime chef Chris DiMinno, though he didn't really step up to the plate until Feburary. That's when the excitement began.

Clyde, next door to the Ace Hotel (1014 SW Stark St), is anything but common. It’s Portland’s unofficial living room, home to one of the America’s leading craft cocktail bars. But the food has never quite matched the quintessential Portland vibe.

Leach seemed to be that guy: soft-spoken but bold, with technical chops, a passion for Oregon seafood,  and a killer feel for oxtail. Early in his career, he headed to the Big Apple. At 32, he'd earned stripes as chef de cuisine at David Chang's casually tony Ma Peche, and line cooked through some of New York's finest, from Mario Batali's famed Del Posto to Chang's two-Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko.

But the stars were not aligned. Eat Beat has learned that Leach was let go on May 3. "I really respect him and his food, and I think he has a bright career ahead of him," says Clyde Common owner Nate Tilden. "But his style didn't mesh with Clyde's style and after six months, we decided to part ways." 

During Leach's tenure, I had some beautiful plates, including seafood charcuterie that still lingers in memory. His rich, umami-screaming oxtail, meant to be stacked over the kitchen's seedy Parker rolls, showed where he might go. But meals were uneven, and at times it wasn't clear where he was making a mark on a menu that changed little under his tenure. 

Tilden says the menu will stay put for now while he ponders the kitchen's next move. "I'm always up for pushing, for doing ideas that haven't been seen," he says. "It we stumble, that's OK. But we also have to make sure we have balance, so most people can find something they want to eat. We always change slowly."

Stay tuned to Eat Beat for more news from the Clyde Common kitchen as it comes in.

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