Food for Thought
“Being a success in anything is all about having a goal and aspirations,” Aikens says. “Fundamentally, it comes down to hard work and believing in what you’re doing and where you’re going - nothing in this world is handed to you on a plate.”
Aikens has always been ambitious, and with his father and grandfather in the wine business, he was immersed in the foodie scene from an early age. At just 12 years old, Aikens decided to be a chef, and claims “by the age of 16 I had set myself a ten year plan to have a Michelin star or at least to be known at 26 - that was my goal.”
It was a goal he easily exceeded; Aikens spent his twenties honing his skills and gaining a culinary reputation. Aikens explains that two years working in a Parisian kitchen, “influenced my style of cooking and the way that I eat.”
Today, Aikens still enjoys time spent on the continent, and he’s travelled far and wide sampling the ingredients for Walker’s Market Deli crisps range, visiting Evesham for their tomatoes, Cornwall for its Cheddar and Italy to source the very best balsamic vinegar.
“As a chef, I find seasonal produce very important, and this mirrors what the Market Deli range is doing,” he says. Noting that “over the course of my career I’ve obviously been in contact with a lots of different suppliers,” Aikens has seen relationships between suppliers and restaurants develop to better cater for seasonal produce.
“I can say that 20 years ago when I was first starting out, suppliers in the UK weren’t really of the quality we had in other parts of Europe - that’s definitely changed in the last decade.”
Now that a passion for cooking has become a mainstream talking point – “the public loves to get involved with food, eating out or watching a cookery show” - the restaurant scene has “come on leaps and bounds.”
The culinary scene has exploded and Aikens is “a very firm believer that the products and produce supplied and grown in the UK is as good, if not better, than anywhere else.”
With new restaurants flooding the foodie market, London may be the home of Aikens’ eponymous Tom’s Terrace, Tom’s Deli and Tom’s Kitchen, but the chef believes there’s room for everybody. “The imagination of food has really taken a hold of people’s lives,” Aikens grins.
With an average day in the life of Tom Aikens involving a 6:30am alarm – “my two little girls are always up by 7:30am anyway” – Aikens’ lifestyle is at odds with the 9-5 mentality. Despite working “sometimes till 2am,” he still finds time to improve his craft at home. “I make all my daughters’ food - although as they’re young it’s mostly puréed,” he laughs. When it comes to catering for the grown-ups at home, he’s very much a one-pot man. “Something with the least amount of mess! Anything from a slowly roasted joint to stew, to a casserole or a shepherd’s pie.”
With his top treat “a nice and simple Sunday roast with friends and family,” it seems that, despite his reputation, Tom Aikens is an easy man to please.