Interview: Fatherhood has mellowed me says one-time ‘firebrand’ chef

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Now that he’s a dad, top chef Tom Aikens says he’s less fixated with work. But he’s still a perfectionist in the kitchen.

Not many people would turn down a meal from one of the country’s top chefs – especially one with a fiery reputation.

But it seems Tom Aikens’ two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Violette has some strong opinions when it comes to food.

“I gave her some roast chicken with some root vegetables recently, and even before she tried it she looked at me when I put it down and went, ‘I. Don’t. Like. That!’” the chef reveals.

Luckily, Aikens – who is also dad to four-month-old Josephine – has a trick up his sleeve to ensure his toddler daughter clears her plate.

“If she doesn’t like something, we’ll generally grate a load of cheese over it and she’ll wolf it down. It’s a bit sneaky of me, but it works,” adds the Norfolk-raised 44-year-old.

“She’s an addict of Peppa Pig,” he continues. “They occasionally make and eat pizzas (on the cartoon), so we have a pizza day sometimes where we make home-made pizza.”

Becoming a father has made Aikens reassess his priorities, he admits.

Known for his high standards, he famously hit headlines in 1999 after he was accused of burning a colleague in a plush London restaurant with a hot palette knife.

Aikens still describes himself on Twitter as a “crazy passionate chef”, but, he now says: “I’ve definitely mellowed with age and matured”.

“With the arrival of two lovely little girls I’ve definitely seen the light, as they say. In my earlier youth I was very much fixated on work, work, work all the time. There are different priorities in life (now),” he explains.

He’s still incredibly busy, though, running his Tom’s Kitchen restaurant chain and considering a venture in New York with his twin brother and fellow chef, Robert. Most recently, Aikens has also teamed up with lactose-free dairy brand Lactofree, for a new promotional campaign.

There’s also the occasional late night work email clear-out. “I’m not one to sit down and put my feet up and relax I’m afraid.

“I’m one of these people who doesn’t like to have more than 10 emails in their inbox, they have to be cleared.”

And he is still demanding in the kitchen. “Having paying customers, they expect a certain level of quality and consistency in what you’re doing, so everyone has to be ship-shape all the time.”

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