Tom Aikens is one of the UK’s most acclaimed and inspirational chefs, owing to his innovative style and creative interpretation of modern French cuisine.
With a father and grandfather in the wine industry, it wasn’t long before Norfolk-born Tom Aikens discovered French gastronomy and the central importance of food in his life. From a young age, Tom was thrown into helping his mother in the kitchen with the preparation of basic cakes, biscuits, jams and home cooked meals with fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden. This enthused Tom’s continual passion for using the finest seasonal ingredients from the British Isles, provided by Tom’s long standing suppliers.
Inspired to further develop his cooking skills, Tom enrolled at the Norwich City College Hotel School. ‘I found something I was good at,’ he recalls, ‘and something I loved’. His first Job after he left college was at Michelin Starred, David Cavalier’s restaurant in Battersea, which proved to be a defining experience and most certainly motivated him early on in his career.
From there Tom went to work for Pierre Koffman’s La Tante Claire in Chelsea, which gained a third Michelin star during his time there. Tom also worked with Philip Britten at the Capital Hotel and as a sous chef at Pied à Terre in Charlotte Street, under Richard Neat. Tom gained further inspiration and invaluable knowledge in Paris, cooking with Jöel Robuchon, and Gerard Boyer at Reims. Tom returned to the UK as Head Chef of Pied à Terre, where, at 26, he became the youngest British chef ever awarded two Michelin stars. Here he stayed for five years.
In 2003, Tom’s eponymous restaurant in Chelsea opened; Tom Aikens Restaurant. On 12th January 2012, following a closing period, the Chelsea restaurant re-opened following extensive interior refurbishment and a move towards a more informal style of fine dining. True to form, the restaurant upheld the culinary excellence found in like-minded establishments in a refreshingly relaxed setting with friendly and knowledgeable service. The restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star
For the 2013 Great Britain and Ireland guide in 2012 and 2013. In January 2014, Tom and his partners decided to close the Elystan Street restaurant and relocate the flagship to a more central London location.
Tom Aikens opened the brasserie-style Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea in 2006. In conjunction with Compass Group, Tom also launched a second Tom’s Kitchen site at Somerset House including Tom’s Kitchen Terrace and Tom’s Kitchen Deli. In June 2013, Tom’s Kitchen, Deli and Bar opened in Canary Wharf and the restaurant group’s first International flagship opened in Istanbul November the same year. The brand continues to expand through 2014 and beyond with another Tom’s Kitchen opening at St. Katharine Docks in May.
Tom is also currently exploring other opportunities, including the US and Asia.
Tom has written three books; Cooking (2006), Fish (2008), and Easy (2011), and has collaborated with designer David Linley on a beautiful range of kitchenware. Tom collaborated with Qatar Airways and an all star team of culinary ambassadors to create the ‘Qatar airways culinary world menu’ for discerning first and business class passengers.
The celebrated chef is dedicated to serving only the highest quality, ethically sourced ingredients and continually supports The Environmental Justice Foundation to raise awareness of illegal ‘pirate’ fishing and diminishing fish stocks.
Tom has made several appearances on television and reached the final banquet of last year’s Great British Menu on BBC2 in aid of Comic Relief. He has also appeared on Saturday Kitchen and Market Kitchen. Tom works closely with various charities including: the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Campaign, Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign and School Food Matters, where he teaches young children basic cooking skills.
Tom is an avid sportsman and has a great passion for cycling. He has entered races including the Marmotte, Luc Alphand and the Etape de Tour up Mount Ventoux. In addition to participating in several London Marathons, he also completed the Marathon des Sables in 2010, running six marathons across the Sahara desert in five days to race money for Facing Africa. Tom was a part of the 2012 Ambassador Programme for the BOA and assisted with raising funds for Team GB. In 2012, Tom was honoured to be selected as a Torch Bearer for the London Olympics and carried the Olympic Torch through the streets of Chelsea.
My connection with seafood
We all have stories of when we first came in touch with fish at a very early age, either through the site or smell or the peculiar shapes and sizes all the many colours and varieties or even eating your first piece of fish. My earliest memory was when I was 5-6 years old, playing on Salcombe beach and Noss Mayo down in Devon. We used to catch fresh shrimps by the bucket and these were then either put back into the sea or my parents would take them home and cook them for tea. My brother’s and I, all use to love going to Newton Ferrers, a picturesque Devon village. My father had an open sailing boat, which we would go mackerel fishing from. We also loved going fishing at a local river in Norfolk called the River Yare, and many afternoons were spent on the river fishing, catching mainly perch and a few pike now and again. Although these were the first instances of my times with the sea, I’ve always had a great fondness for it and now it is even more important to me than ever.
Why sustainability is important to me
At Tom’s Kitchen, we’re dedicated to serving only the highest quality, ethically sourced ingredients, using UK-based suppliers wherever possible. The approach is something altogether more natural and organic, where the emphasis is on where the food comes from and how it is grown. Seasonality and locally produced food are such important factors in the preparation of a menu at Tom’s Kitchen, that the team goes to great lengths to source the best British suppliers. Airfreighted food is also a big concern at Tom’s Kitchen, as we believe that a disregard to food miles shows a lack of understanding about the environment. Therefore the chefs here snub threatened species such as swordfish and tuna in favour of the catch from local fishermen such as Cornish fishermen Chris & Dylan Bean and Chapmans of Sevenoaks. We also support The Environmental Justice Foundation to raise awareness of illegal ‘pirate’ fishing and diminishing fish stocks and are partnering up with them to raise awareness of illegal fishing.