Marco's Michelin crown falls to young chef

A 26-year-old chef has become the youngest in Britain to win two Michelin stars, beating Marco Pierre White, who won the same accolade aged 27 - and winning his boss pounds 1,000 in the process.

Tom Aikens is the new chef at London's Pied a Terre, one of nine restaurants awarded two stars by The Michelin 1997 Red Hotel and Restaurant Guide, published yesterday.

The restaurant's manager, David Moore, was so confident that it would retain its two stars that he made a pounds 1,000 bet with his boss. "He just faxed me from India saying he can't wait to pay up," said Mr Moore yesterday.

Although the restaurant already held two stars, there had been fears that when previous chef Richard Neat left last year, the stars might go with him.

Restaurants to receive the coveted three stars were all in London: La Tante Claire in Chelsea, Marco Pierre White's The Restaurant at the Hyde Park Hotel, and Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane.

In what was described by the guide, which contains information on more than 6,000 establishments, as a "strong" performance by British and Irish restaurants, 67 received one star.

Mr Aikens is likely to be busy. The last time the restaurant was awarded two stars, business almost doubled within three months.

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