An interview with Tom Aikens
With a focus on quality, creativity, craftsmanship and service, and a global career built out of the home of the first ever Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea, renowned chef Tom Aiken’s values and ambitions are remarkably aligned with Morpheus’ own. Whether designing an acclaimed menu for a Michelin starred restaurant, or the layout and interiors of a fine dining space, using the best possible ingredients and focusing on the overall presentation whilst paying close attention to the finer details remain just as important. Morpheus and Tom talk shared values, inspiration and what’s next for Tom’s Kitchen.
What inspires you?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside some of the world’s best chefs who were a huge inspiration to me and included French chefs such as Joel Robouchon and Pierre Koffman. They have both been real inspirations to my cooking and certainly have influenced my style. I also admire chefs like Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and the Roux brothers; not only have they revolutionised the industry with their cooking, but they are also great businessmen. My mother was also a great influencer of mine. She was a great home cook, so from a young age I would try to help my mother in the kitchen with making basic cakes, biscuits, jams – anything I could get my hands on.
How important is presentation and the overall experience for diners visiting your restaurants?
100% important. In all my restaurants the customer’s experience and journey is key.
Do you see a link between the design of your food and the design of your restaurants?
Our restaurants are all rustic, comforting and relaxed, matching the style of food we serve. Provenance and our suppliers are fundamental to Tom’s Kitchen both in the food and design, with huge supplier canvases hanging on the restaurant walls, all representing the suppliers we have used for years.
Are you influenced by food trends or do you maintain a timeless approach to your menus?
It’s fascinating to watch the development of new trends and ideas in food and restaurants. I’m never one for following a craze but I always make sure we keep ahead. I read a lot of different articles on food development via the magazines and various blogs. New ideas come and go very quickly and it takes a lot to make one single idea into an actual reality. Therefore, it’s very important to surround yourself with creative influences and stay true to your own style. I love to bounce ideas around and gain any valuable feedback on a new idea before I introduce it to the paying customer.
You focus on using the very best seasonal, locally and ethically sourced ingredients in your food. Do you consider that your point of difference?
Sustainability is the key element to get the best-quality ingredients. If the ways the produce is grown are harmful to the planet then it is damaging the produce itself which, of course, affects its taste. I believe that the best meals can be made from the most simple recipes, provided that you get the best ingredients, so our food is strongly linked to the whole concept of sustainability. I think more and more people are becoming more aware of the planet they live on and how they can help, therefore an increasing amount of chefs are following a similar track. Our main point of difference is that the restaurants have been following this ethos for ten years since opening in Chelsea, and I personally have always cared about sourcing and sustainability, therefore our passion and loyalty to our ethos is exceptionally strong.
Your career and profile is becoming more globally prolific. What made you choose Istanbul as a location to open a new restaurant?
For Tom’s Kitchen I work with D.ream based in Istanbul. Therefore, it seemed like a natural fit to expand the brand to there. I love to experiment with a variation of interesting and exciting flavours, so the selection of Turkish spices that can be found in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar are my favourite Turkish ingredients. You can transform any dish with just a hint of spice and having such a vast amount to choose from makes visiting the spice market one of the most enjoyable parts of my trips. As I am extremely passionate about cooking with fresh produce, I love visiting markets and meeting with real people and suppliers to see what such an amazing country has to offer and how I can deliver that to my restaurants.
What’s next for you and for Tom’s Kitchen?
We have lots of exciting plans for both the restaurants and delis… That’s all I can say at the moment but this year’s going to be a great one.
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