1 Michelin Star Chefs: Tom Aikens, chef owner, Muse by Tom Aikens

The  Staff Canteen

Tom Aikens is the chef and owner of Muse by Tom Aikens in Belgravia, London.

Tom's mark on the UK's culinary landscape is undeniable; after being the youngest chef in the country to secure two Michelin stars when he was 26, his latest restaurant earned one in the 2021 guide despite being closed for most of the year.

Muse by Tom Aikens

 

38 Groom Pl, Belgravia, London SW1X 7BA

Monday    Closed
Tuesday    6–10pm
Wednesday    6–10pm
Thursday    12:30–2pm, 6–10pm
Friday    12:30–2pm, 6–10pm
Saturday    12:30–2pm, 6–10pm
Sunday    Closed

Website and reservations: https://www.musebytomaikens.co.uk/ 

Telephone: 020 3301 2903

Twitter: @tomaikens

 

Instagram: @musebytomaikens

Facebook: @musebytomaikens 

biography

Tom Aikens was born and raised in Norfolk, and already from a young age he and his brother Robert (now also a chef), often referred to as the "terrible twins" were kept at bay by their mother with food - helping her bake, cook and garden away some of their energy.

The chef confesses that "even then, I think we both knew that these times with our mother in the kitchen would drive us both towards becoming chefs."

What's more, their grandfather and father were both in the wine business, and they spent many holidays in the Auvergne region of France, where the chef got his first taste for highly-seasonal, fresh produce, and was even introduced to Michelin star dining.

Aged 13, Tom made the decision  to become a chef, so despite his parents' reservations he enrolled to go to Norwich City College, graduating with an advanced catering diploma in 1989. 

Undeterred by rejection letters from the industry figureheads he aspired to work for - the greats of his time were Pierre Koffmann; Roux Brothers Albert and MichelNico Ladenis and an up-and-coming Marco Pierre White - the chef applied for unpaid work everywhere he could think of, finally securing a six-month unpaid role at Cavalier for David Cavalier. 

He credits David for teaching him the fundamentals of classical cooking, as well as instilling him with something of a volatile temper.

Working 18 hour days most days of the week was hard on Tom, and after having to be convinced by David and his wife Sue to stay when he considered packing it all in, he stayed for another year. Convinced he bore promise as a chef, David recommended him to work for Pierre Koffmann, helping him secure a job at La Tante Claire in 1991.

There, he worked alongside highly talented chefs including Éric Chavot, Paul Rhodes, Tom Kitchin and Helena Puolakka, and had graduated to his own section when the restaurant received its third Michelin star. 

He then moved on to work at The Capital with Philip Britten and then to Pied à Terre with Richard Neat. It was Richard who helped Tom get a job at Joël Robuchon's restaurant in Paris, where he spent some of his most formative time as a chef. Then, he worked at three Michelin-starred Les Crayères in Reims - the Champagne region - under chef Gérard Boyer.

He returned to England and to Pied à Terre, taking on the head chef's position and retaining the restaurant's two Michelin stars, making him the youngest chef in the country to have achieved such a feat aged just 26.

Pierre Koffmann then offered him a head chef's position at La Tante Claire, where he went to spend a year, before setting his sights on private sector work with the launch of Lord Lloyd Webber and the Bamford family's brand of products, Daylesford Organic. 

In 2003, Tom launched his own restaurant, Restaurant Tom Aikens, earning a Michelin star, 5-AA Rosettes and much critical-acclaim for the eleven years it stayed open. 

The team decided to close the restaurant in 2014 to focus on Tom's Kitchen, a brasserie-style restaurant the first of which opened in Chelsea in 2005, with, at the group's peak, a total of four sites in London, another in Birmingham and one in Istanbul, Turkey.

The last site to close was the Chelsea flagship in January 2020, shortly after opening Muse in Belgravia, with the chef citing "extremely challenging market conditions."

What the guides say...

Michelin

 

MUSE

The restaurant, set over two floors of a renovated mews house first opened its doors in December 2019.

The 25-seat restaurant, manned by 15 front and back of house staff, is the culmination of all of the influences on Tom's career so far, from his upbringing to the many professional and personal encounters he has made since. 

The menu denotes strong ties to British suppliers and farmers, with conceptual dishes given lengthy names but scant descriptions (i.e. Conquering the Beech Tree for 'langoustine, pork fat and burnt apple, and other dishes given names like 'Neither black nor white', 'The Essence', 'Cows and cornflakes').

The Michelin Guide describes the menus as reading "like a culinary journey of reminiscences, where each well-judged and sophisticated dish relates to something memorable from the past, whether that was climbing a tree or enjoying the last barbecue of summer."

Though The Daily Mail described Muse as "the most pretentious restaurant in Britain,' The Guardian's food critic Grace Dent rebuked that it is in fact "the sort of pretentious I live for," describing his "theatrical new joint" as being "like delicious talking therapy,"  calling it her very own "restaurant of the year."

Awards, accolades, books and Tv Appearances

’Tom Aikens: Cooking’ was published by Ebury in October 2006, followed by 'Fish' in 2008, 'Easy' in 2011. 

Tom Aikens appeared as a contestant on Great British Menu in 2011 - when he was beaten by chef Tom Kerridge in the regional heat - and in 2013, this time taking his ‘chicken egg, egg chicken’ starter to the banquet.

He has since returned as a veteran judge on multiple occasions, as well as making an appearance on the Great British Menu 2020 Christmas Special.

In 2008, the chef cooked at Ark, the charitable dinner which raises more than £20 million per year for British children in need. 

In 2020 he took part in a fundraiser for 'Only A Pavement Away' and raised £3,000 for their Hospitality Against Homelessness campaign with his 'Tom Aikens Charity Cookery Challenge' - whereby people were tasked with recreating a 5-minute feast first filmed by the likes of Tom Kerridge, Judy Joo, Richard Bertinet and Nieves Barragán Mohacho on social media. Overall the endeavour raised more than £5,000.

In 2021, Tom made a televised appearance on All 4's Snackmasters, alongside chef Alex Bond and hosted by famous Maitre d' Fred Sirieix, in an attempt to recreate a KFC Zinger Burger. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th April 2021

1 Michelin Star Chefs: Tom Aikens, chef owner, Muse by Tom Aikens