`Branding' of a junior lands chef in the soup

TOM AIKENS, the youngest chef in Britain to gain two Michelin stars, has resigned from his London restaurant following allegations that he branded a teenage junior with a hot knife.

Mr Aikens, is alleged to have burnt the arm of 19-year-old chef Marcus Donaldson on Friday after the teenager made a minor mistake in the busy kitchens of Mr Aikens' restaurant, Pied-a-Terre, in the West End. When the teenager committed the error, Mr Aikens, who has a reputation in London's kitchens for his volatility, castigated him then held the knife to his arm.

The incident, according to sources at the restaurant, resulted in a rebellion among kitchen staff. Last night the restaurant said: "Pied-a-Terre announces that Tom Aikens, head chef since May 1996, has left ... in order to start up his own restaurant. Tom's decision to start up his own restaurant was taken some time ago and is not linked to an incident in the kitchen last week."

Mr Aikens refused to comment last night but rival London chef, Gordon Ramsey, said: "I am aware of this incident and I was mortified. This manshould not be allowed near a kitchen again."