How We Met: Viscount David Linley & Tom Aikens

'If we'd met 10 years ago we probably wouldn't have been friends. I was a right little upstart'
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The Independent Online

Viscount David Linley, 49, runs the design company Linley, which has furnished suites at Claridge's, refurbished the luxury Goring Hotel and has clients including Oprah Winfrey, interiors maven Kelly Hoppen and fragrance doyenne Jo Malone. He has teamed up with Tom Aikens to create a line of kitchen accessories. As the Queen's nephew, he is 13th in line to the throne. He lives in Chelsea with his wife and their two small children.

I'm Tom's nearest neighbour – we live between where Tom's Kitchen is and where Tom's Place used to be, and I often go into Tom's Kitchen in the mornings, which serves the best breakfast in London. I'll have the full English breakfast, depending on how fat I am – my weight has increased greatly thanks to Tom's cooking.

Although we're neighbours, Tom and I first met at a party in the country at a mutual friend's house. We got talking because we've got quite a few things in common – we both cycle, though he bicycles a bit faster and better than I do. Tom does everything at high speed, I think; he certainly chops parsley faster than I can.

Then I went with my wife to his restaurant, which was done up beautifully by a friend of ours, and we had several fantastic dinners there, and through the mutual admiration of his cooking and him coming to chat with us, we became friends.

He's very kind and very understanding – he has a great fascination with people.

I wouldn't dare cook for Tom and [his wife] Amber, and unless we happen to be washed up on a desert island and his hands are tied behind his back, I never will; when we're out in the country, I'll put things in the Aga in the morning and take them out in the evening – a low, slow organic roasty thing. And I enjoy barbecuing. But being rushed in a small London flat kitchen is not as relaxing, so I don't cook in London.

Tom and Amber had been together for quite a bit, so we were delighted when they told us they were getting married; it's a very unique relationship – they're both very gifted and funny and smart and clever, with one handsome, one beautiful.

Our wives get on very well, too, and the range of kitchen equipment we've created together was a result of all of us having had too many breakfasts together. He put various chopping boards on the table and said: "How can we better this?"

What will working together do to our friendship? Well, if it sells well, it'll do wonders – if it doesn't, we'll just say "It was their idea."

Tom Aikens, 38, was the youngest chef ever to hold two Michelin stars, at Pied à Terre in 1996. He went on to open two of his own restaurants, Tom Aikens and Tom's Kitchen, which last month went into administration. He has been famous for having a fiery temper and was once sacked for allegedly "branding" a trainee chef with a hot knife; he recently accused a customer of stealing a silver spoon from his restaurant. He lives in south-west London with his wife.

David and I got chatting at a mutual friend's house over dinner about each others' work and discovered we were neighbours. Because we're two quite similar people – creative, passionate driven and entrepreneurial – we had lots to talk about.

What David does is very interesting – the level of craftsmanship is very high in every little thing in his shop, whether it'sa place-mat or a corkscrew. It's the same in my restaurants – every little detail is the best that, in my eyes, it can be. Are we both rampant perfectionists? Yes, and probably control freaks too.

David became a regular for breakfast at Tom's Kitchen, where we would chat, and we began going out for dinner, bringing our wives along too. David's a lovely family man and his wife is gorgeous too. I guess he is very aristocratic, but to me he's as normal a person as anyone walking down the street. I don't treat him in a different way and I don't think he'd expect it.

Sadly, I don't have any of David's pieces at home, there just isn't room in the flat – but there are lots of things in his shop that I have my eye on; it's a really lovely shop. Perhaps I should write a Christmas list.

Both of us work incredibly hard. The life of a chef is not easy, and because of the hours it's very difficult for me to be social and I'm not particularly good at keeping dates in diaries. In fact, I'm pretty terrible and have – on at least two occasions – cancelled things I shouldn't have at the last minute [with David], but I'm very loyal to my kitchen and that's what happens if someone is off sick or something. My friends have to be very patient.

If David and I had met 10 years ago – instead of around four – we probably would not have become friends. I'd have been only 28, and a right little upstart, much too full-on. I've definitely mellowed in my older age; I'm a bit wiser and more mature.

It was my wife Amber – who knew David before she knew me – who originally suggested we collaborate [on a product range] together. The process of working together has been great and it's definitely strengthened our friendship along the way. There were no arguments, none at all. Don't have the time to argue!

The Linley-Tom Aikens collection is available from 12 November at www.davidlinley.com

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