Evie Kissack chats to innovator and chef, Tom Aikens - the man behind Tom's Kitchen.

When you first opened Tom’s Kitchen what vision did you hold for the restaurant? Do you feel that vision has been fulfilled?

We’ve been open now for 11 years at our first site - we’ve just done a huge refurbishment of Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea. That’s been very exciting; we’re looking at working some other projects now too. Tom’s Kitchen is a brand that’s very close to my heart. In terms of what I love as a chef, it ticks all the boxes. 

Tom’s Kitchen uses UK-based suppliers wherever possible. Why is this initiative so important to you?

I think it’s the backbone of what we do. We care so much about the produce; where it comes from, how it’s sourced. The one thing we need is great-quality produce to be able to create great dishes. 

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

I think about the seasons. I co-ordinate the dishes with new produce either from spring, summer, autumn and winter harvests. That really spearheads the direction we go in for our menus. We break it down into the various sections of vegan, vegetarian, fish, meat, and then consider different taste requirements. It’s well thought out and it’s really about what’s in season. 

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I think it’s the day to day…we always create daily changing dishes and develop ideas in the kitchen - sometimes these dishes can be developed further and actually put onto the a la carte menu. So it’s a base for some of our chefs to gain confidence in creating dishes of their own, we give them à platform to do that. It’s a great way to produce new dishes and utilise the produce we get from our suppliers. 

Can you remember the first meal that made you fall in love with food?

I’ve had a love for food since I was a kid. I lived in Norfolk with my parents and I had a very lucky childhood…my mother helped me to become a chef because she was always very passionate about food and she always looked after us – we were well fed. There was always fresh, hot food on the table (never from a packet!). It was food she cooked daily. We had a big garden with lots of seasonal produce such as carrots and potatoes, strawberries in the summer, fruit trees with apples for crumbles…and in that way I developed an understanding for growing things in the garden, and seasonality. We had our own little garden patch at about eight years old – then I started creating things in the kitchen.

Would you say that you have a career-defining dish?

I’m always evolving and changing – so I wouldn’t say I have a career-defining dish, but I definitely think it’s nice to have a signature dish that you feel is a comforting dish to you. With a signature dish, it evokes memories; it’s a dish you enjoy creating and it defines you as a chef. We have a couple of dishes like that at Tom’s Kitchen, and many of the dishes that have been on the menu since the very beginning are British classics. We never really change these dishes; we only change the seasonal produce. So maybe, 50% of the menu we keep the same. 

You’ve also worked extensively with several charities, and are often involved in fundraising events. Why do you feel it’s important to use your platform for these campaigns?

I think it’s an important part of being a successful chef - being able to give back. It’s crucial to support charities. This is something I have always done through restaurants, or even my own personal achievements - like running (I’m a bit of a sportsperson). I often do marathons to raise money. 

What can you be found doing when you’re not in the kitchen or running marathons for charities?

I have two girls aged four and six. They definitely keep me occupied as well. I have a short amount of time outside of work, but I tend to go to the gym a lot; I’m very much into keeping fit because of the hard work that comes with being a chef. I love spending time with my wife and kids – they take the priority in my life. 

Can you see your little ones venturing into the culinary world?

They do love being in the kitchen with me and understand that I’m a chef and what my job means. Whenever I’m cooking at home – I do a lot of home baking with them, which they love – they love sticking their fingers into the raw cake mix and eating it…which is what I did as well. They do enjoy mixing and tasting things in the kitchen already; it’s lovely to see. 


 

Tom's Kitchen Birmingham  53 – 57 Wharfside Street, Level 2, The Mailbox, Birmingham, B1 3RE

0121 289 5111

 

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