A chat with Tom Aikens

Tom Aikens is a real star in the cooking world. With two Michelin stars by the age of 26, Tom has recently opened the fabulous Tom’s Kitchen in Birmingham’s plush Mailbox, and the restaurant has been an instant success, a real destination in the City’s thriving food scene. On Monday I went along to Tom’s Kitchen (with a quick pit stop at Tom’s Deli on route) to chat to Tom about all things food.

FM: Let’s start by chatting about Tom’s Kitchen. Why Birmingham? Why Mailbox?

TA: I started talking about Birmingham two years ago. I’d looked at other cities and was interested in the demographic of the Cities, what other restaurants were based there. I looked at the food press and noticed Birmingham featuring a lot, a lot of buzz around the city being No.2 for food behind London – the food capital outside London, with lots of exciting openings, Atul Kochhar’s restaurant is also coming to Birmingham (Mailbox).

I’d wanted to open a Tom’s Kitchen outside London for a number of years. When Mailbox approached I was interested in the proposed space as it had great visability and footfall. It ticked lots of boxes. Birmingham is a city with so much to offer – lots of tourism, within easy reach of London. But I was reaching out from my comfort zone which can be difficult. In London when I open a new restaurant I tend to move some of my existing staff to the venue, but in Birmingham it was a totally new staff, yet recruitment of the right people was pretty easy – all done within the time frame.

FM: Did you always want to be a chef? Who were your earliest inspirations?

TA: I wanted to be a chef from the age of 12. I grew up in Norfolk with lots of time spent outdoors. We had a massive garden with a veggie patch. Mom was very hands on – we had a kitchen garden and grew a lot of our own produce which we then transferred to our kitchen, with lots of focus on family mealtimes. I liked home economics at school and when I was 16 I went straight to Norwich City College catering school – no exams or interview required.

FM: What was your fave meal as a child? Was there any dish you really wanted to cook?

TA: My favourite meals were puddings. Mom made homemade apple pies and rhubarb crumbles. And roasts, Sunday lunches. Mom cooked  very simple stews and casseroles, and I wasn’t too fussy foodwise, would pretty much eat anything that was put in front of me..except for Steak and Kidney pie. I had a bad experience with steak and kidney pie when my mom’s friend, who was the worst cook served this up. The Pastry was almost charred, and yet it was luke warm inside (how do you do that?). The sauce was watery and it all looked so grey and chewy. It was one of those situations where you can’t leave the table unless you eat everything, so thank goodness they had a dog who I could feed every time she left the room.

FM: Who inspires and excites you now on the cooking scene?

TA: I know lots of chefs who are friends and we meet up. There is a lot of respect on the cooking scene – people like Tom Sellers, Philip Howard, Daniel Clifford from Midsummer house. We all started at around the same age and it is nice to see everyone doing so well.  I also really admire Joel Robuchon from Paris.

FM: Who would you love to cook for if you had an imaginary dinner party?

TA: Well my close family, even though my girls are fussy eaters. And lots of sports athletes. I was involved in the London Olympics in 2012, and I was involved with fundraising, including the Golden Olympic Ball (for 3000 people). I met so many athletes and they are all so dedicated, it would be hard to cherry pick individuals, people like Louis Smith, Mo Farah and Laura Trott, but I so admired their work ethic and the training they put in. If you think about their stress load, they often then have a split second between success and failure.

FM: What would your three courses be on Come Dine With Me?

TA: I’d keep it simple. For starter I’d create my go to dish of Scallops in a shell with butter, olive oil, thyme, garlic – no pan frying at all. Nice and easy, takes about 5 minutes.

For main I would do a simple rib of beef. In summer I just love to barbecue so this ties in nicely. I’d make sure there was a big pot of Bearnaise sauce too.

Pudding – again, keep it simple – a lemon tart. (I did at this point tell Tom that my dessert would be even more simple – Vienetta. He laughed and said ‘chop some strawberries, add some whipped cream and hide the box. Winner.’)

FM: What are your personal favourite foods?

TA: I don’t have one favourite food but I love that British food is so seasonal. I love Asparagus, gulls eggs, game, venison, partridge and grouse. I think we are very lucky to have seasonal food, although the season always seems to be Winter!

FM: What achievement are you most proud of?

I think it has to be my two Michelin stars by the early age of 26. I didn’t really know that something like that would happen, but I’m really proud to have achieved this so young.

FM: What next for Tom Aikens?

TA: Well, I would like to continue to open Tom’s Kitchen’s. On a personal level, I’m looking to a few new projects, one in Doha and one in Abu Dhabi. That will definitely be enough for me.

 

Tom’s Kitchen

Address: 53, The Mailbox, Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RE
Phone: 0121 289 5111

 

 

Marie Curie Charity fundraiser at LK Bennett

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to be invited to a very special style evening being held by the cancer charity Marie Curie at swish Birmingham Mailbox store LK Bennett. The event was being held to raise funds towards a the establishment of a family room at a new Midlands hospice, and Birmingham’s stylish ladies turned out in force to support the event.

Glasses of Fizz and canapes helped to create a vibrant atmosphere as the guests were able to enjoy both the new collections and the great sale items from LK Bennett, whilst also buying heaps of raffle tickets that had some pretty amazing prizes, courtesy of the likes of Harvey Nichols and Malmaison. There were also pampering treats and advice from the ladies of L’Occitaine, with the Pavilions store also providing goody bags for each guest.

Guest were also treated to a great trend presentation by Birmingham stylist and blogger Beth Goodrham. Beth, herself looking resplendent in the rather gorgeous Gina Crepe long sleeve shirt, had picked key items from the current collections, from the basics we all need, to showstopping pieces that we all need for those special occasions. Beth always gives great advice that could help you to establish your own capsule collection, and I loved her picks.

with Beth Goodrham

Beth showing Trench Double Breasted Coat £245.00 click to visit LK Bennett

Beth wearing and showing Gina Crepe Long Sleeve Shirt £145.00 click to visit LK Bennett

Beth styled this outfit which includes Adele Long Waterfall Cardigan now £125.00 click to visit LK Bennett

The event was a fabulous success, raising £900 towards the grand total needed for the family room.

My LK Bennett favourite pieces from the night.

 

Harvey Nichols, Birmingham Blogger Event – Food and fashion!

Last Saturday saw the latest Harvey Nichols, Birmingham Blogger event. Always an unmissable event on the Brum social calender, this one promised amazing food, fab fashion and a touch of beauty, as the bloggers were treated to previews of the Harvey Nichols restaurant menu, Christmas food treats and of course, a presentation of the key fashion trends.

The event started in the Harvey Nichols cafe, where we were able to sample some of the delights from the new menu. There were a range of salads, gorgeous roast beef  and horse radish sandwiches which I just loved (the horse radish was just so peppery – fabulous), and my personal favourite, haddock with chips and mushy peas. The haddock was so succulent, it just broke apart with the slightest of touches. This will definitely be my choice for my next visit to Harvey Nicks.

photograph credit Andy Espin

Lunch was followed with a presentation from the food department. We were shown some of the new arrivals for Christmas 2012, including some rather delicious I Chocs, that come in a case designed to resemble an i pad. Of course, I just had to try them, purely for research purposes, and my favourite was the caramel, which was delicious. There were also varieties in mango, milk and liquorice flavours, mango being another must try.

photograph Andy Espin

I also had a little wonder around the confectionery and just saw so many gorgeous items that would make the perfect gift for the fashionista in your life. From handbag and heels from Charbonnel et Walker, to the most gorgeous choconchoc sweeties, these are really lovely gifts that anyone would be happy to receive.

After the mouthwatering chocolate treats, it was time for the fashion presentation which also promised to set us drooling, albeit in quite a different way. Grabbing a glass of champers on the way, we were treated to a presentation of key looks for the new season.

photograp Andy Espin

With Beth Goodrham from Style Guile

Trend report – Look 1

Look 1 was a very, berry feast. This was a casual look which combined a Isabel Marant Etoile T-shirt (£180) with For All Mankind jeans (£225), a  Karl Donoghue gilet, (£550), Ash boots, (£170) and a fabulous Alexander McQueen bag, £1,095. This was a young, fun look and I personally loved the way the t-shirt, with its mix of purple shades, pulled the whole look together.

Look 2

Look 2 was one of my favourites on the day, a real Zooey Deschenal look that transcends the seasons so well. It combined a gorgeous dress from Alice and Olivia with a simple denim jacket from Maison Scotch, and a cute pair of Chipie trainers. The Chloe bag added a touch of grown up elegance to what was a very cute look.

Look 3

This was a very sexy workwear look, a mixture of Gemma Arterton in St Trinians and Jane Birkin mid 1970s. I adored the Paul Smith shirt which had amazing detail on the cuffs – perfect British tailoring. The other talking point of this outfit wa the fantastic Jeffrey Campbell studded boots which are just amazing. High waisted shorts from Isabel Marant, and the much lauded Givenchy dog bag (the one thing I hated to be honest) completed the look.

Look 4

The next look was one that could be termed Middlton-esque. Featuring a gorgeous peplum dress from Alice and Olivia in a smart grey shade, and a glorious pair of Jimmy Choos, this is the perfect workwear look that could take you easily from the boardroom to the bar by just adding a splash of red lippie.

Look 5

This was a real showstopper look that had ana amazing dress from WAGS and celeb favourite Philip Armstrong. The skirt was unusual in that in was a neoprene fabric which gave the dress fabulous structure.This dress needs no adornment, the skirt is most definitely the talking point for a dress like this.

Following the presentation, there was time to take a good look around the store picking out our own key looks and favourite pieces. Here are some of mine.