Top Chef Tom Aikens Dishes On Why You Should NEVER Take Food Selfies

13 December 2017, 17:03

Tom Aikens

We picked the brains of the top chef to talk temper tantrums, pig's testicles and why he can't stand food selfies...

When it comes to cooking, Tom Aikens has a pretty impressive CV to say the least.

Outside of his ruggedly good looks, the star chef became the youngest chef to be awarded two Michelin stars at the age of 26, and since then, he has built a portfolio of U.K. and international restaurants including the renowned Tom's Kitchen in London. 

So when we were told we would get the privilege of sampling his work at the Gourmet Dinner Safari at the famed Tides Restaraunt in Barbados, we jumped at the chance.

 

After falling in love with Barbados back in 2000, the chef made his return to the island to headline the 8th Annual Food and Rum Festival in November, which brought together some of the world's top talent to offer a number of gourmet experiences.

We picked the brains of the top chef to talk temper tantrums, pig's testicles and why he can't stand food selfies...

You're one of the star chefs at the Food and Rum festival, why did you want to get involved and what do you love the most about Bajan cooking?

The last time I was here was 2000, so it’s been 17 years since I had last been to Barbados and I had already been thinking how nice it would be to come back to the Caribbean; so when I got confirmed that I would be doing the Gourmet Safari here at the Food and Rum festival it was perfect timing. 

I’ve been to quite a few other islands but I think Barbados, in terms of the cuisine and the restaurants, are amazing. I think in terms of the staple dishes, such as the grilled snapper with macaroni pie, those are some of the foods that I look forward to when I come here. It’s just simply cooked food which is really fresh so you can’t get better than that.

How important is it to get your kids involved in cooking?

I have two girls who are nearly four and six, who love to help out - or should I say mess things up! Even though they have a daddy as a chef, they aren’t as open to trying new food as I would have wished so that means I have to be very crafty about sneaking things into their dinner. I will creatively sneak things into the sauce that they may not want to eat or try, and camouflage things in the different dishes.

I love to get them involved in things like making pancakes at the weekend or baking cakes as they have a real sweet tooth!

You've steered away from expanding Tom’s Kitchen, was that strategic? 

In terms of the restaurants I have in London, we just wanted to keep it organic and make sure it was still special and unique. I do feel like when you get over a certain number of restaurants you do lose that a bit. 

I’m still very hands on and I love to be really hands-on so most of my working week I am 60-70 percent in the kitchen.

We have a generation of budding chefs but they’re no longer in the top restaurants, they are online. Do you think bloggers are changing the industry for the better or worse? 

I think with social media and the Instagrammers, it definitely shines a lot more light on the cooking industry and you know there is something to be said for watching a dish being made from start to finish - it’s fun and interactive. 

The one thing that is always difficult is taking actual pictures of food. Taking pictures of food in a restaurant is really hard because of the light, you know it’s always an overhead light and if you’re trying to take a picture in a dark restaurant it’s not going to look good.

So sometimes when I see these horrible dark pictures of my food it can be annoying, it kind of drives me up the wall a bit.

I’m fine with it in the daytime but I think this whole snap culture can ruin not only how the food looks but the experience. People are so busy trying to get the perfect picture that the food is going cold.

 

Do you think chef rivalries can go a bit too far, or is it just healthy competition? 

Rivalries between chefs are always good but I think today’s chef industry is so much different than thirty years ago. 

Nowadays, everyone is much more friendly and because it is such a hard environment everyone is now there to help each other. 

Chefs and their tempers have been notarized for a long time, you know they can be hotheaded and moody but I do believe the times have now changed because working conditions are much better and the hours are more reasonable than what they used to be. 

I think people are now understanding that in order to have good chefs they need to be working in an environment where they are treated with respect. 

What are some of the weirder foods you’ve tried in your time?

Pig’s testicles had to be the weirdest food I've eaten and probably duck intestines. I was in Hong Kong and I was with some of my staff in a very basic local restaurant and the food just kept coming. So, we’re trying all these foods - which was amazing and so cheap - and I get asked to try a dish. 

Of course, I had no idea what it was but to me, it looked like noodles with green pepper with oyster and mushrooms but it turned out to be duck intestines!

For more information on visiting Barbados head over to visitbarbados.org