Lots of you have been asking about our fabulous, award winning, partner chef Tom Aikens. Ross, one of our Founders, took a break from a photo shoot with him to find out a little bit more about his background and what inspires him to be such a fabulous chef…
Getting to know Chef Tom Aikens
Ross: We’ll start with a really simple question - Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
Tom Aikens: My Mother. I’ve always loved to cook from a young age as my twin brother and I would always help my mother out in the kitchen and in the garden. I loved digging for fresh vegetables, seeing things grow and come to life. My mother would involve us in lots of home baking and we were always on hand to help lick clean the occasional sticky raw cake mix that was left in the bottom of the bowl. I was around 13 years old when I knew I wanted to become a chef and at the age of 16 I enrolled at Norwich City College Hotel School, one of the best catering colleges in the UK.
Ross: It’s clear that you have a real passion for produce. What three ingredients do you always have stocked?
Tom Aikens: Good butter for cooking with, Maldon Salt for everything, and a great olive oil for cooking & dressings.
What is the Ultimate 3-Course Meal for Chef Tom Aikens?
Ross: Onto a question we love asking chefs: What would your ultimate three course meal be and why?
Tom Aikens: To start I would have whole scallops cooked in the shell over fire with butter, garlic & thyme. You simply cannot beat a whole roast chicken as a main and then for dessert an Apple Tatin with a great vanilla ice cream
Ross: I would happily sit down and devour that meal with you! When you get a moment outside of the kitchen to enjoy someone else’s food, where do you love to go?
Tom Aikens: One of my favourite restaurants to go to in London is BRAT. I love cooking over fire which is why I love BRAT in Shoreditch. The flames are a focal point and the first thing you notice when you walk in.
It’s the perfect place for sharing amazing whole pieces of meat and fish cooked over lumpwood charcoal. The house special turbot is a must try! It is cooked Basque-style in an iron cage and just melts in the mouth. Portions are generous and almost a struggle for two people to devour so make sure you arrive hungry as you definitely won’t leave disappointed.
Ross: Well, the difficult questions will keep coming I am afraid! What is your favourite cookbook and why?
Tom Aikens: Grande Livre de Cuisine - Alain Ducasse Keys to Good Cooking - Harold Mcgee Special & Decorative Breads by Bilheux, Escoffier, Pouradier & Herve
Ross: Now for something a little bit different….What’s your favourite cocktail and Why?
Tom Aikens: A Whiskey Sour! It’s one of my go-to drinks and is a tell-tale sign of a good place if they can make it well enough. I love the smoky, sour & sweet taste - it ticks all of my boxes!
Essential Ingredients in Tom Aikens Kitchen
Ross: I love that and what a brilliant choice. What are the three ingredients that we would always find in your kitchen and why?
Tom Aikens: Flour Flour has to be one of the most important ingredients due to its versatility. It takes around 350 ears of wheat to make enough flour for one 800g loaf of bread. About 85% of flour in the UK is milled from wheat that is grown in the UK. Home grown grains, blended with small amounts of imported wheat and the unsurpassed skill and efficiency of our millers, means that Britain is consistently producing exceptional flours. In lockdown we saw the whole of the UK take up baking, cake making, bread making, tray bakes and dessert making. Basically, we almost consumed double the typical amount of flour in the last year! I have always loved making bread, in particular sourdough. There is something truly comforting, rhythmic, almost hypnotic about making it and you never become a complete master at it as you are always learning no matter what. The flour that you bake with has a big impact too, changing the texture, the taste, the crumb, the moisture and the crust of the bread. Lemons A squeeze of lemon juice into a sauce, vinaigrette or onto a piece of cooked fish can make a huge difference and adding some microplaned lemon zest can also add a little extra citrus kick. Always go for the unwaxed lemons, either Amalfi or Sicilian if you can get them. The zest is outstanding in a gin & tonic and cannot be beaten. Those extra notes of citrus from a real lemon will elevate your drink to another level. Scallops I think scallops are one of the tastiest, sweetest and juiciest shellfish species and they can handle lots of different flavours, from sweet, to salty, to savoury. They are best eaten grilled, poached, barbecued, blow torched and even raw. Whatever the flavour, just don’t overcook it, and finish it with some zing such as some lemon, lime or something piquante.
Ross: And lastly, Who is your culinary hero and why?
Tom Aikens: The two chefs that really shaped my career and who inspired me were Pierre Koffmann and Joel Robuchon, both very different chefs. One was all about the flavours and tastes on the plate and the other was all about the precision and detail, and of course tastes as well. They both used such amazing produce, the best I’ve ever seen. My style incorporates what I learnt working for both of these masters. I love the intricacy, but it must have great flavour as well!
Discover Chef Tom Aikens’ Amazing Recipes with Finish & Feast
Now you know a bit more about our partner chef Tom Aikens, why not try some of his delicious recipes! Once you place an order with Finish & Feast, Tom will cook and prepare your meal before it gets sent directly to your door, complete with some simple instructions in order to finish and plate the meal. Then all that's left to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the fine taste of Tom Aikens’ food in the comfort of your own home.