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Tom Aikens

Tom’s second restaurant, the brasserie-style Tom’s Kitchen, opened in Chelsea in 2006 and has since been followed by a number of other branches – one at Somerset House in 2009 (now closed), Canary Wharf in 2013, St. Katharine Docks in 2014 (now closed) and in the Mailbox Centre in Birmingham in 2017. He also owns a restaurant in the United Arab Emirates called Pots, Pans & Boards. His current restaurants offer a different proposition to his Michelin-garlanded eatery, with the focus more on casual, high-end comfort food dining – think Roast pork belly with anise carrot purée and balsamic glazed carrots or Fish pie with a herbed crust. A signature dish of Slow-braised shoulder of lamb with onions, thyme and balsamic makes a regular appearance at the venues, as does his Black bream with toasted almonds, brown shrimp and broccoli purée.

A focus on quality ingredients and provenance has continued to be a theme, however. Influenced by his green-fingered childhood, Tom is passionate about growing his own food, and has introduced rooftop gardens at his Chelsea restaurant. 'You know exactly what you’re eating,' he says. 'It’s healthy, seasonal and the environmental impact is pretty much zero. We’ve been growing all sorts of wonderful things there, which have already inspired several new additions to the menu.' Able to pick things minutes before they are needed, he adds: 'The chefs start to understand what it takes to grow vegetables from seeds and that it takes time and patience, and they respect things more than them coming just out of a box. As it’s me that’s planting the seeds, weeding and watering, I am putting a lot of extra time into keeping this going, so they know it takes hours of care and attention.'

This reverence for fresh, seasonal produce comes through in his menus. What he can’t grow himself, he gets from a range of UK farmers and foragers that take sustainable production seriously. An ethically-sourced food pioneer, he works to raise awareness of diminishing fish stocks and illegal fishing, sourcing his seafood from small-scale Lowestoft and Cornish fishermen.

Tom has also made multiple television appearances – including many on Great British Menu, both as a contestant and a judge – and has written several cookbooks. He works with several charities, including School Food Matters, where he teaches young children basic cooking skills. He has a great passion for cycling and other sports, and completed the Marathon des Sables in 2010, running six marathons across the Sahara desert in five days, raising money for the medical charity Facing Africa.

The focus and ambition Tom showed at such an early age shows no signs of slipping, encapsulated well in a recent interview: 'I think regardless of your ability or your age, you really have to find goals of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish because otherwise you’ll be stepping backwards all the time. It’s tough, but I think if you have that drive and passion and belief in what you want to do, then you can definitely achieve a lot and there’s a lot to achieve in cooking – it’s an amazing industry to be in.'

Three things you need to know

If Tom wasn't a chef, he would have been an endurance sports athlete or a jump jockey.

Tom's final meal would be scallops cooked in the shell with garlic, butter, lemon zest and thyme, good dry-aged medium-rare cooked steak and his mother’s apple pie.

The weirdest thing Tom has ever eaten is pig's testicles.