How We Met: Tom Aikens & Amanda Eliasch

'She marched into the kitchen, grabbed a couple of eggs and started cooking'
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The Independent Online

Tom Aikens, 40

A two-Michelin-starred chef, Aikens runs three award-winning restaurants in London: Tom Aikens, Tom's Kitchen and Tom's Terrace. He also lives in the capital.

Amanda was having breakfast in my restaurant in Chelsea [Tom's Kitchen] with a friend a few years ago. The other woman was baiting Amanda, saying she couldn't cook anything, not even scrambled eggs. And Amanda just got up, marched into the kitchen, all dressed up, grabbed a couple of eggs and started cooking. I was in the back, in my whites, and I was a little bit upset, to say the least.

I ran into the main kitchen area and said, "What the hell are you doing?" A customer who waltzes in and starts messing around in the kitchen raises all sorts of health-and-safety worries. She explained that she wanted to show her friend she could cook and I said, "OK, but it's my kitchen and no one comes in without asking, but maybe I can give you a few lessons on how to scramble eggs."

So I showed her: two or three eggs, crack them, beat them – not completely, so there's a little bit of speckled white left – add salt, pepper, add to a medium-hot pan (where the butter melts quite quickly), and stir away till shiny and glossy. She took it all on board and from then on she'd often come of a morning to say hello, and I'd sit down and chat for 10 minutes and we got a lot closer.

After that she arranged to have some private cooking classes with me. Usually I cook and the student learns, and eats. But with Amanda it was rather different, because she kept wanting to get stuck in, saying: "Why are you doing it that way, wouldn't it be better doing it like this?" While she started as a terrible student, she did eventually get better.

In terms of the way I cook, I like to keep it simple, get the basics right. Amanda is different; I've helped her prepare for some of her dinner parties and she always wants to do complicated dishes. I say to her, keep it simple, just do a simple casserole with mashed potato, but she doesn't always listen.

She's a real livewire; bubbly, often quite outrageous and very forthright, while I'm more serious: it's harder for me to relax. But it's useful to have friends who are different to you; she's a very happy person and she'll light up anyone's day, including mine.

Amanda Eliasch, 51

Eliasch is a photographer, fashion editor playwright and poet. She lives in London

It's quite rare to find a good place for breakfast in London, so every morning around 11am I used to go to Tom's Kitchen and have a delicious start to the day. All my family were brilliant cooks when I was growing up, but I ended up just cleaning up, so I've always lacked confidence in the kitchen. When my second husband and I finished a few years ago I was having breakfast there with a friend saying, "What if I have a new man and he wants me to do a steak and kidney pie?" and Tom overheard me.

Tom looks like Bryan Adams – rather dishy – so I immediately started chatting him up and he said, "Come into the kitchen and I'll teach you to do some eggs and we'll make you marriage material." Being in a kitchen with Tom is enough to give you a nervous disorder. He's a perfectionist and I'm rather nervous in the kitchen anyway. I was wearing a corset and high heels, so Christ knows what I looked like, but I somehow got a good friend out of the experience.

Nobody can be feistier in life than me but I can get frightened cooking a dinner and I wanted to get totally confident in it, so I asked Tom if I could have lessons. I said I was worse than I was as I wanted him to shine more, but he still improved my confidence and was very patient.

I think I need more lessons from him, though; then I can chat him up a bit more. I rather like that he bosses me round – no one else does. He's little but very manly. If he wasn't 10 years my junior, he'd be the perfect man for me. He's not big and fat like the other chefs, he's got that petite cuteness and a star quality about him.

The parties I hold aren't his thing, so he's not yet been to one. I like pizzazz while he's more practical and down-to-earth, which matches his cooking style. He's an austere man, Tom, a puritan – I'm probably too much for him.

I'm doing a show next month for which he's doing the after-party. And while it won't necessarily be swish – it'll be lots of bowl food – with Tom you can guarantee delicious things to eat, which is a rarity, I think.

Eliasch's play, 'As I Like It', is at the Chelsea Theatre, London SW10 ( chelsea theatre.org.uk), from 4 to 14 July

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