When you earn two Michelin stars at the age of 26, it tends to destine you for greatness in the kitchen. For London chef Tom Aikens, lauded for his hyper-seasonal modern-naturalistic brand of cooking, it’s done just that.
Aikens was born to a wine merchant family in Norwich, England and spent summers at the family summer home in Auvergne, France. Sun-ripened wild strawberries and warm, freshly drawn cow’s milk sparked Aikens’ food curiosity. At age 16, he enrolled at Norwich City College Hotel School and graduated in 1989.
Aikens moved to London to work at Michelin-starred Cavalier’s and The Capital Hotel. At age 21, he became Chef de Partie for Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire; during this time the restaurant earned its third Michelin star. Perhaps he was bitten by the Michelin bug there; Aikens moved to two-star Pied à Terre, where he was sous chef to Richard Neat. In 1994, he heard the culinary call of Paris, and worked for a year at Michelin three star-rated Joël Robuchon and Les Crayères in Reims.
Aikens returned to London and Pied à Terre in 1996, this time as head chef and co-proprietor. He maintained the restaurant’s two Michelin stars and became the youngest British chef to achieve this accolade. He was 26. Five years later, he left Pied à Terre, returned to La Tante Claire, and then took a break from restaurant kitchens. Aikens helped Lady Carole Bamford develop her farm and products for Daylesford Organic Farm Shop and Wootton Organic, an experience that sewed the oats for the chef to wholeheartedly embrace local, seasonal ingredients in his cooking philosophy.
In April 2003, Tom Aikens Restaurant opened in Chelsea. The 60-seat site has since earned numerous prestigious critical accolades, including a Michelin star in 2004 and a “rising two-star” status in January 2008, five rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide since 2008, and an 8/10 score in the Good Food Guide 2009. Aikens opened a second, brasserie-style restaurant, Tom’s Kitchen, in November 2006.
Outside of the kitchen, Aikens is a cookbook author, charity and conservation activist, and an avid cyclist. His first cookbook Tom Aikens: Cooking was published in 2006, and his second, FISH, was released in 2008. He works with multiple organizations to raise awareness about environmental issues and improve school food.