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The Caterer

Tom Aikens

12 May 2005
Tom Aikens

Overall ranking: 71

Chef ranking: 9

Snapshot

Tom Aikens is a Michelin-starred chef who combines a bad-boy image with the reputation for original, subtle and intense cuisine. His eponymous restaurant, which opened in London in April 2003 has gathered a staggering 22 awards since its launch.

Career guide

Aikens was born in Norwich in 1970 into a family of wine merchants. After completing his Advanced Catering Diploma in 1989, he worked at the Mirabelle in Eastbourne before joining the Michelin-starred at Cavaliers 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, Aikens became sous chef at Pied a Terre in London. After working at the three Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon in Paris and Gerard Boyer's Les Grayeres in Reims, he returned to Pied a Terre in 1996, where he held onto the two Michelin stars earned by his predecessor, Richard Neat.

He left under a cloud in 1999, spending a year as head chef at La Tante Claire before working as a private chef for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lord and Lady Bamford, who own Staffordshire supplier Wootton Organic. He opened Tom Aikens in London's Elystan Street, in April 2003 in partnership with his wife, Laura, who handles front of house.

What we think

Atlhough Aikens attracted a few negative headlines in 2003 - his separation from his wife (who remained co-owner) and an angry confrontation with a customer over a stolen silver spoon) - his 60-seat restaurant proved he could still cut the mustard. Critics and customers alike drooled over the wine list, the service and the décor (designed by Anoushka Hempel) almost as much as the modern French cuisine.

The three awards Aikens picked up in 2003 snowballed into 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 the 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 and MoÁ«t, the Craft Guild of Chefs, Hardens/Remy, and Decanter/Laurent-Perrier - including the Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Best Newcomer of the Year.

His exceptional 12 months made Aikens the first recipient of a new category (that of Vintage Year) in the Tio Pepe ITV London Restaurant Awards, which also voted him top London restaurant.

2005 started on a high note when prestigious French guide Gault Millau scored Tom Aikens 18/20 in its first round-up of London restaurants. This placed Aikens ahead of Gordon Ramsay (with 16/20) and second to Heston Blumenthal with 19/20.

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