In 2013 John and Henry produced the School Food Plan, which was one of the biggest shake-ups of school food for a generation. It has overseen, among other changes, the introduction of cooking lessons for all children up to the age of 14, universal free school meals for infants, and new standards for the food served to children in schools. John and Henry were both awarded an MBE in 2015 for services to school food.
John did one of those clever personality tests once and it pegged him as a ‘Challenger,’ which we think is about right. He likes to make things better. Well, not always, but more often than not. From creating dance events (with Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed) and an entertainment production company at college, and leading the turnaround of various consumer brands, to business trouble-shooting at Bain and Company, to the recent School Food Plan, John has a determination and energy to improve how things are. It was at Bain and Company that John met Henry and where the idea for a fast food revolution was born.
John took over day to day running of LEON as CEO in 2014. John is also responsible for innovation at LEON, personally tasting every dish before it makes it on to the menu. Especially the chocolate ones. He formerly wrote a column for the Metro newspaper and has also co-authored three of the LEON cookbooks.
The business was named after John’s dad, and the sunshine that radiates from every LEON team member can be traced back to his mum, who John says inspires him every day with her positivity. You’ll find family photos in every LEON, on our website and in the LEON cook books. Team members are treated like members of one, big extended family. John is married to broadcaster Katie Derham and has two girls and a dog called Sunny, or maybe Sonny, he still hasn’t decided. He would probably use this space to say thanks to Katie, who allows the LEON team to camp out at their house for our summer and winter well-being days.
Henry started his career as a commis chef with Michelin-starred chef Bruno Loubet. Finding he was too messy to survive in a professional kitchen, he joined The Daily Telegraph as a gossip columnist, and from there moved to Bain & Company, a management consultancy firm, where he met John. They bonded over a dislike of pre-made sandwiches served from neon-lit chiller cabinets.
Outside Leon, Henry co-founded the not-for-profit Sustainable Restaurant Association. He has written for the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Sun and the Times, and is a regular panellist on BBC R4’s Kitchen Cabinet. Most recently Henry co-founded London Union, owners of Street Feast, which turns disused and derelict corners of the capital into buzzing street food night markets. London Union is planning to open the world’s greatest food market in central London.
Henry is married to the journalist Jemima Lewis (who edited the School Food Plan). They have three children and a 23-year-old cat.
Described by The Independent as “a caterer with a conscience”, Allegra McEvedy has been cooking professionally for over 20 years. Over that time she developed the philosophy that she continues to live and work by: that there are more ways for a chef to make a difference than by winning Michelin stars, and that good food should be available to everybody. Allegra has always had a passion to provide ‘the best food to the most people.’ When, just a couple of months to go before opening Carnaby Street, the designated Leon head chef decided to move to Hastings, Henry and John approached Allegra to take on the role. They are very glad they did.
Allegra has worked extensively as a broadcaster, appearing on BBC, Channel 4 and Good Food Channel and has also written six beautiful cook books.
In 2008, Allegra was awarded an MBE for services to the hospitality industry, with the citation of promoting healthier eating and ethical sourcing in the UK. Allegra has a young daughter who accompanies Allegra on her many far-flung food adventures, recently returning from a research trip to Cambodia and Malaysia.