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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Tom Aikens, Restaurant Tom Aikens and Tom's Kitchen

06 December 2012

Overall ranking: 96 (ranked 89 in 2011)
Chef ranking: 29 (ranked 31 in 2011)

Tom Aikens is a Michelin-starred chef who combines a bad-boy image with a reputation for original, subtle and intense cuisine. He has suffered from business administration and closures but after securing backing from Istanbul Doors Restaurant Group last year, he reopened his eponymous restaurant in Chelsea in early 2012 and regained his Michelin star in October.

Tom Aikens - Career guide
Tom Aikens began his career at the Mirabelle restaurant in Eastbourne before joining the Michelin-starred Cavalier's restaurant in Battersea, London, as a commis chef.
He moved to London's Capital hotel under Michelin-starred head chef Phillip Britten and was working as chef de partie at Pierre Koffmann's La Tante Claire in London when the restaurant won its third Michelin star.

In 1993 Tom Aikens became sous chef at Pied Á Terre in London. After working at the three-Michelin-starred JoÁ«l Robuchon in Paris and Gerard Boyer's Les Crayères in Reims, he returned to run Pied Á Terre in 1996, where he held on to the two Michelin stars earned by his predecessor, Richard Neat.

He left under a cloud in 1999 for an incident involving a burning-hot palette knife, spending eight months as head chef at La Tante Claire before working as a private chef for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lord and Lady Bamford. He opened Restaurant Tom Aikens in London's Chelsea in April 2003 in partnership with his then wife, Laura.

In November 2006 Aikens expanded for the first time, opening Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea's Cale Street, with French chef Ollie Couillaud recruited to head up the kitchen. It proved an immediate success, and Aikens made plans to open a second Tom's Kitchen by 2010, but scrapped this idea in 2008 due to the recession.
Aikens's third venture was an eco-friendly fish and chip shop, Tom's Place, also in Cale Street, which opened in February 2008. He was forced to close the doors after a dispute with the local authority over the smell created by waste from the kitchen.

In October 2008 Tom's Kitchen and Tom Aikens went into administration, but re-emerged under a new holding company with Aikens remaining in the kitchen after going through a pre-pack administration.

In 2010 he joined forces with Compass Group to launch two restaurants at London venue Somerset House. The chef has taken over the existing Admiralty restaurant and River Terrace Café at the 18th-century building and relaunched them as Tom's Kitchen and Tom's Terrace respectively.

In 2011 Aikens teamed up with a new investor, the Istanbul Doors Restaurant Group, and relaunched his flagship restaurant in early 2012 to critical acclaim, being awarded a Michelin star and five AA Rosettes in the first year. This was followed by the news, most recently, that he is set to expand his Tom's Kitchen brand, with the opening of a third site in Canary Wharf next spring (2013). There are also plans for a deli operation and a new restaurant with his twin brother Rob in New York.

He has written three cookery books Cooking (2006), Fish (2008), and Easy (2011).

Tom Aikens - What we think
For a number of years Tom Aikens was arguably better known for his involvement in an incident involving a hot palette knife than his undoubted cooking skills - he was the youngest chef to pick up two Michelin stars - but the launch of his eponymous restaurant in 2003 saw the tide turning firmly in his favour. He picked up three awards in 2003 and then an astonishing 18 accolades in 2004. The restaurant won a Michelin star in January, four AA rosettes, an 8/10 grading in the Good Food Guide and three stars in Egon Ronay's revived restaurant guide for 2005.

Aikens also racked up numerous "best restaurant", "best newcomer" and "excellence" awards from the likes of the Good Food Guide, Harpers, the Craft Guild of Chefs, Harden's and Decanter - as well as the Catey Newcomer Award.

The success of Tom Aikens was always likely to spawn sister restaurants, and Tom's Kitchen launched to critical acclaim in 2006. However, attempts to open new sites were stymied by the recession and, in the case of a fish and chip restaurant, a dispute with neighbours.

Aikens was mired in further controversy in October 2008 when his restaurant business went through a prepack administration, meaning it could continue to trade, but leaving suppliers out of pocket by an estimated £1m. It left a bitter taste in the mouth of many suppliers, but Aikens has lived to tell the tale, and his restaurants continue to win plaudits.

If the flame-haired chef was once a culinary enfant terrible, then it seems that after several years of upheaval, the boy has grown into a man. The IDRG deal is set to provide financial stability in Aikens's business world, while the regaining of a Michelin star and five Rosettes from the AA Guide for his flagship Chelsea restaurant shows the chef has lost none of his skill or promise. The resurgence of the Tom's Kitchen casual dining brand will also be interesting to watch, with plans afoot to open two or more a year in the UK and even Asia and The Middle East.

Tom Aikens' ranking in the 2001 Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100 >>

Tom Aikens to open in Canary Wharf >>

Tom Aikens reopens >>

Michelin-starred Tom Aikens to reopen Tom's Terrace >>

Michelin-starred Tom Aikens receives cash injection to expand >>

Tom Aikens website >>

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