Tom Aikens: The chef on the greats who inspired him, fitness regimes and what he thinks of beer at breakfast

 

Morning. Where in the world are you and what did you have for breakfast?

I'm in France, on holiday and not on holiday: I've got a lot of work to do, but am taking a break as well. I just had granola, banana, peach, yogurt, and a cup of builder's tea.

You're working with Stella Artois at the moment. When was the last time you had a beer at breakfast?

Never.

Really? Not even on holiday?

No, I can't say that I ever have. I'm a bit of a health freak.

You've worked under some of the greats. Who had the biggest impact on you as a chef?

There were two: Pierre Koffman and Joël Robuchon. Both very different chefs at the top of their game. I worked with Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire when I was 21. His cooking is very much Gascony cooking: it's all about the quality of the ingredients and the depth of taste he can get from those. Joël Robuchon was into intricacies and details on the plate. I remember some of his dishes – the ones with minute dots of purée all the way around the plate – would take five or so minutes to dress.

How did they run their kitchens?

Pierre Koffman was quite vocal. Every-one could talk and acknowledge him while they got on with their thing. Whereas with Robuchon, the kitchen ran in complete silence. He was the only one who spoke and he only spoke once and if you missed an order then that was it – you were out of the door.

You grew up in Norfolk. How did the local culinary culture influence you?

Norfolk has very good seafood up on the north coast around Cromer. There's agricultural land too; it's very flat so very good for farming apples and corn. My mother was a great cook and a gardener. We had a huge garden with a vegetable patch and as kids we always had our own patch to plant seeds in. And we would pick all the different berries, and make jams and chutneys from them.

What dish reminds you of childhood?

My mum would make milk bread at the weekends. And her roasts were always a treat. Then a crumble or a home-cooked apple or rhubarb pie from the garden.

You ran six marathons in five days across the Sahara. That's quite a feat…

It's important to keep fit. When I was at Pied à Terre I got into a very bad habit of sometimes having a beer after work and I had a big passion for blue cheese. Over the course of a few months, I could definitely see my belly growing. Now I train for at least an hour every day.

Does the drive and focus needed for cheffing lend itself to running?

Definitely. Michel Roux runs a lot, as does Philip Howard. It's a nice way to de-stress.

Some kitchens are infamous for their work hard, play hard culture. Was beer and blue cheese the most you ever misbehaved?

Yes. As soon as I finished my blue cheese and beer diet, I was much cleaner living. I make sure I eat the right things.

What's your guilty pleasure now?

It's very boring, but I have an absolute addiction to vanilla ice cream. Carte D'Or is one of my favourites. I can sit there and eat a whole bowl of the stuff in a few minutes. It's bloody good.

Biography

Tom Aikens, 44, was born in London, into a family of wine merchants, and grew up in Norfolk. At 26, while head chef at Pied à Terre, he became the youngest British chef ever awarded two Michelin stars. He runs several London restaurants, and is collaborating with Stella Artois on a series of recipes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee