So we are nearing the mid way point in our series of ‘5 Questions’ and we have to say a big thank you to all involved and to everybody that has read them. Hopefully they will help some chefs with their choice of career direction.
Tom Aikens describes himself on Twitter as
A crazy passionate chef that always loves a challenge and food, who simply does not understand the word RELAX…… and breathe !!!
Even in his own bio it doesn’t really portray the energy of Tom. At the age of 26 he became the youngest chef in the UK to achieve two Michelin stars, preceding the likes of Richard Neat & Marco Pierre White. After an indifferent period in his career he opened his own eponymous restaurant in Chelsea where he currently holds one Michelin star and 5 rosettes from the AA. He also fits in appearances on CH4 Iron Chef & running marathons.
1. What would be your best piece of advice for a fresh face school leaver who is obsessed with ‘Food Porn’ looking to get into the industry?
Go to college for two years and then into the industry. My personal advice is to work in small restaurants rather than a hotel, so you can work in a smaller team and gain more hands on experience. In a smaller kitchen you get moved around each section more often so you learn faster and can quickly take on more responsibility
2. What qualities are you looking for in your more junior chefs when recruiting new staff ?
If they have an abundance of passion, commitment, drive and enthusiasm then that’s all I need to make them into a good chef.
3. Would you recommend that staff do stages & how do people get to do a stage with you?
Yes most definitely. It is very important getting staff to go to other kitchens to learn new techniques and methods styles of cooking. I would generally say email or a letter is the best way of contacting me.
4. In light of the recent death of a young chef through excessive hours (on average 100+ per week, for multiple weeks – See our post), does the industry need to change & what changes have you made to reflect this in your own kitchens?
I think its very important that chefs get to rest as much as they work, I cannot believe chefs still work 100 plus hours! I had presumed that that was only when I was training. At Tom Aikens they get 2.5 days off and at Tom’s Kitchen the chefs get about 3 days a week off. Chefs need to get proper rest when they are working long hours. We used to start at 7am at Tom Aikens but we now start at 8am then they are normally out by 11.30 pm.
5. Do you think that the media (in particular television) have raised the profile of the industry in a positive way?
Yes I think it has really opened people’s eyes to what is achievable – what it means to be a chef, cook, TV chef, food writer, food critic etc. You can now go into so many careers that have food linked to them. I think more and more people are coming into the industry as the hours, pay and prospects are better than they ever have been.
For career opportunities with Tom Aikens, contact him here;
Restaurant Tom Aikens, 43 Elystan Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 3NT
Many thanks to Tom for doing the ‘5 Questions’ for the Chef Hermes Blog, it is much appreciated and hopefully an insight for our more junior readers.
Next for the 5 Questions, is Shaun Rankin of Bohemia, Jersey.