Hailing from a little village in Norfolk, Tom grew up in a house with fruit and vegetables growing in the garden and a family who treated Sunday lunch with reverence. Baking was his mother’s forte, and Tom started baking in the kitchen by the age of eight and making family meals by twelve. Raised with a respect for fresh, seasonal ingredients, Tom and his twin brother were helping out with the gardening aged six or seven, growing and picking, but also making chutneys and jams.
His father and grandfather were in the wine business and his family spent a lot of their holidays in France, staying in their converted barn in the Auvergne region and visiting wineries as they travelled, which exposed him to regional French cuisine at a young age.
Leaving school at sixteen, Tom was already driven and focused on his chosen career. He enrolled at Norwich City College Hotel School with his brother Rob, completing an Advanced Catering Diploma in 1989. Beginning his cheffing career as a commis chef at Michelin-starred Cavalier’s in Battersea, London, he moved onto The Capital Hotel, working under Philip Britten, followed by a chef de partie position with Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire when the restaurant won its third Michelin star. He worked for a time at two-starred Pied à Terre with Richard Neat, before moving to France to gain more three-star experience, working a year each at Joël Robuchon in Paris and Gérard Boyer’s Les Crayères in Reims.
In 1996 Tom returned to London, rejoining Pied à Terre – now as co-proprietor and head chef – retaining its second Michelin star. This achievement, one of the highlights of his career, saw him become the youngest chef in Britain to achieve two Michelin stars. After five years at the restaurant, he left, returning to La Tante Claire as head chef.
In 2003 Tom Aikens Restaurant opened in Chelsea, gaining its first star in 2004 and its second in 2008. The restaurant was also awarded 8/10 in The Good Food Guide and the maximum 5 AA rosettes. The food at this establishment, described in its early years as some of the most innovative of the time, was an elaborate affair with each dish made up of many perfectly executed components. Classical French haute cuisine with a touch of modern British sensibility, it was daring and complex, cementing Tom’s name as a magnificent cook with creativity and technical mastery. Reopening after renovations in 2012 with a relaxed informality which reflected the changing times, the food showed influences from the Nordic school of fine dining, but remained sophisticated and imaginative, with understated nuance and flair. The restaurant closed permanently in 2014.
Awards & Press
- James Beard Award
- Michelin 1 Star