Tom Aikens

Tom Aikens

Tom Aikens

Hailed as one of the most creative and talented chefs Britain has ever seen, Tom Aikens has ascended rapidly in his career, becoming the youngest chef to win two Michelin stars aged only twenty-six. His food continues to emphasise sustainable, high-quality British ingredients executed with creative, technical flair at his intimate experience-led restaurant Muse in Belgravia.

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.

Tom’s second restaurant, the brasserie-style Tom’s Kitchen, opened in Chelsea in 2006 and was followed by a number of other branches – one at Somerset House in 2009, Canary Wharf in 2013, St. Katharine Docks in 2014 and in the Mailbox Centre in Birmingham in 2017. These have all since closed to give him time to return to the world of fine dining and open Muse, his experience-led restaurant in the heart of Belgravia. Tom also owns a restaurant in the United Arab Emirates called Pots, Pans & Boards.

A focus on quality ingredients and provenance has always been a theme in Tom's cooking, influenced by his green-fingered childhood. 'You know exactly what you’re eating when you grow it yourself,' he says. 'It’s healthy, seasonal and the environmental impact is pretty much zero. We grew all sorts of wonderful things at Tom's Kitchen Chelsea, which inspired several new additions to the menu.'

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.

At the beginning of 2020, Tom returned to the world of fine dining by opening the intimate, very personal twenty-five cover restaurant Muse, where he serves tasting menus inspired by his life and career. The restaurant won a Michelin star in under a year.