TOM AIKENS Q&A

Tom-Aikens2

1. When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I knew I wanted to be a chef from a fairly young age. From the age of 8 back in Norfolk, my twin brother and I were in the kitchen helping mum with basic home baking, making things like cookies, biscuits and cakes. We would always lick the raw mixture out of the bowl!

But we also had a real land to plate culture in our household. We grew all our own vegetables, so would help mum and dad with the planting, growing and picking. Becoming a chef was a natural evolution from this upbringing.

2. Where is the hottest culinary place in the world right now?

Hong Kong

3. What are your foodie staples? (what is always in your fridge/cupboard)

A lot of dried fruit such as apricots and prunes because my young daughter loves them! Then for me, I always have a cupboard full of lentils and pulses and an assortment of different flours because I like to bake at the weekend. In my fridge you will always find yoghurt, cheese, eggs and milk and a lot of fruit for breakfast.

4. What are your foodie staples? (what is always in your fridge/cupboard)

There is just so much you can accomplish in cooking. It is fascinating who you come into contact with as a chef. I think it’s phenomenal how many like-minded people from all walks of life you get to meet and work with.

And it is so satisfying seeing young chefs coming through your door with a real bug and watching them progress. There is such camaraderie and a willingness to help people up the ladder in hospitality and catering trade as it’s such a hard career. I think in other businesses people are all too willing to shut the door in your face.

5. What do you love about cooking?

Joel Robuchon and Pierre Kauffman are two chefs who I look up to and inspired my career. Aiden Byrne is someone who has gone on to have a successful career after working for me.

6. Do you have a standout food memory?

My father worked in the wine division at Coleman’s of Norwich and would travel to France on business, so from the age of about 11 he would sometimes take us with him. We would be taken to some very swanky restaurants and exposed to challenging ingredients such as offal. There was one particular occasion where we had an amazing meal – my parents opted for some nouveau cuisine, but my brother and I had a simple tomato salad with beef fillet and handcut chips. That meal really stuck in our heads and we both had a very real feeling that we needed to become chefs after that.

7. How conscious are you of getting your daughter into healthy eating habits and how do you achieve this?

Although I’m conscious that she needs to eat healthily, I’m not that fussed at the moment because she’s only two, so I don’t want to push. Once you deny children from eating something they want you’ll create a monster! Her diet is mostly vegetable based at the moment with some fish or meat at lunchtime. But I am already aware of certain foods she does and doesn’t like. She’s infatuated by cheese and will say she’s eaten it in a meal even when she hasn’t! And I’ll grate cheese over anything she doesn’t like or stir in a spoonful of soft white cheese. She has the occasional sweet but thinks chocolate is poo!

8. Is it important for you that your family start their day with a good breakfast?

Breakfast is the most important meal of my day to give me the stamina I need. Because I eat dinner early at around 6pm I tend to wake up very hungry. I’ll have a bowl of porridge with fresh fruit, or some toast.

9. What do you make if you’re having a lazy weekend breakfast in your house?

I don’t cook at home during the week so at weekends I make more of an effort. I’ll make some pancakes or waffles as my two year old loves them. She can easily polish off two large ones! Or I might make some Bircher muesli using yoghurt and add grated apple, oats and fruit. It can be made in advance and kept in the fridge too which intensifies the flavour. I might then add some cinnamon or frozen berries.

10. How do you get your daughter involved in cooking?

Although she’s interested in seeing things being made, she does prefer clearing up at the moment – sweeping the floor, putting things away. She does a lot of fetching from the fridge and I cross my fingers she doesn’t drop anything! She has a little play kitchen in her room too.

11. How do you spend your weekends?

Once breakfast has finished by about 10am we go out as my daughter can’t be in the house for more than three hours! We go for walks in Hyde Park and feed the ducks. Or we might go to the Army Museum as they have a play area there. We have quick lunches fairly early before she gets restless, treating ourselves to pasta or pizza. And then the afternoons we spend playing at home or she might have a playdate.

12. Are there any foods you dislike?

I don’t like smoked fish; smoked salmon, smoked eel or smoked haddock. I don’t eat anchovies or sardines but I will cook with these ingredients. I’m not a fan of sushi either.

13. What are your top tips to eating well and staying healthy?

If you do regular exercise you can pretty much get away with eating what you like within reason and moderation. But you should avoid too much processed and manufactured food. And then there are some foods that cause discomfort to people, but these days there are solutions and alternatives out there like Lactofree which offers the taste and nutritional benefits of dairy without the side effects caused by the presence of lactose.

 

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