The man who put Goosnargh chicken and duck on the menus of Britain has died suddenly.
Reginald Johnson, of Johnson and Swarbrick poultry farm, passed away aged 64 on Wednesday, and tributes have poured in from chefs from across the country.
Mr Johnson, known as Reg, has been described as generous, lovable, and passionate about his produce.
Restauranteur and celebrity chef Paul Heathcote said: “I first met Reg in 1987 and we discussed creating a British corn-fed chicken to rival the French, and I suppose there starts the story.
“Within a year he had started to create a new business around what they fondly used to call yellow legs.
“Where he started with a few hundred, he’s now doing a few thousand every week.
I first met Reg in 1987 and we discussed creating a British corn-fed chicken to rival the French, and I suppose there starts the story.Paul Heathcote
“During that time, I introduced him to a few people and they introduced him to more, and he probably now supplies half of the best restaurants in London.
“Goosnargh chicken and duck has transcended from Goosnargh and become synonymous with wonderful Lancashire produce.
“He’s put Goosnargh on the map.”
Reg died at about 9.15pm on Wednesday, while in his van at The Croft in Goosnargh.
David Hurst, from the road policing unit, said: “This is a tragic incident where a man has sadly lost his life and my thoughts are with his family at this time.
“Our enquiries are on-going to establish exactly what happened.”
Mr Heathcote said: “He was a very close friend. I almost feel guilty that it was only three weeks ago we were out and I feel like I’ve missed something.
“We were filming only four or five weeks ago. We were sitting with mugs of tea outside the farm chatting about the old days and how it all started, because the film was about that.
“It was for a chef’s website about how he set up and started and had become famous in Lancashire for great produce.”
Mr Heathcote described Reg as “salt of the earth”, as well as “opinionated”, and said it was “difficult to stop him talking”.
“He was lovable and passionate about his produce.
“I feel my career path was very much running parallel with him. We worked together and, naturally, we developed a friendship from a supplier-chef basis and that will leave a big hole.”
He said Mr Johnson was a “very generous man”, and added: “He was always the person to be first at the bar buying people drinks and didn’t really know how to say no – he always said yes.”
Chefs and leaders from the restaurant industry took to Twitter to pay their respects to Mr Johnson.
Marcus Wareing said: “Very sad to hear. Such a lovely, lovely man. RIP.”
Aiden Byrne said: “How very sad. I’ve just learnt that Reg Johnson has passed. Definitely helped put the north on the culinary map.”
Roger Pizey said: “So deeply sad to hear that my dear friend and top supplier Reg Johnson has passed away. You will be sorely missed. Condolences to all at J&S.”
Jeff Galvin said: “So sad to hear the passing of Reg Johnson not embarrassed to say shedding a tear waiting for my train. God bless Reggie.”
He added: “What more could a chef need than a Reg Johnson, best supplier & friend.”
Matt Hunter said: “He achieved so much and will be missed greatly by chefs & friends alike, sad news.”
And Lee Stainthorpe said: “Great larger than life fella. Massive loss to the north west and uk free range poultry farming. RIP Reg, God bless.”