With the release of Walkers ‘Market Deli Range’ crisps, celebrity chef and deli owner, Tom Aikens, chats to Female First about supporting UK suppliers, encouraging younger people to learn how to cook and the makings of the new Walkers crisp range.
You have teamed up with Walkers for the release of the new Deli range. What differences can we expect from the new range compared to the original Walkers range?
It has taken over 2 years to create this type of crisp- in terms of getting the right flavour components, doing a lot of research and the producers making them. I have spent some time going to the producers, talking and putting ideas together. So you can understand the workload which is involved. It was very interesting and I enjoyed the process.
Are the crisps made in a different way to how the rest of the Walkers range are made?
This is a new brand within Walkers. As the 'Market Deli Range' offers potato, tortillas and pitta chips, it’s the first time they have used this type of crisp. It’s a whole new range. It’s a lot more up market, premium and aimed at the older audience. With this range, it was all about making something that focused on the flavours.
How much input did you have on the flavouring and ingredients for the new range?
The flavours that they wanted to create was down to Walkers but then I helped to incorporate the flavours. As I am a chef and with my background, I’m all about better quality and where it’s come from. And together we worked with a variety of different producers in the UK, Italy and Europe and we chose the ingredients that would be better suited for the crisp.
Supporting UK suppliers is central to your restaurants ethos. Why do you think it’s important to use locally sourced ingredients?
I think in this country we have a lot to be proud of. The producers we have in Britain, from the vegetable growers to farmers that produce main products is great. In the last ten years we have real producers that we can be proud of and shout about. When I was a chef at the age of 19/20 we were getting most of our products from outside of the UK but that isn’t the case for today which is also great.
After 10 successful years of your restaurant, you are re-locating to central London. Have you created or added anything new to the menu?
Not at the moment. I’m actually taking a little bit of time out as I’m outside working on a couple of projects outside the UK. I haven’t actually opened something else in London but I will be doing next year. But I’m concentrating on the projects outside of the UK at the moment.
Have you always known from a young age that you wanted to be a chef?
Yes! I’ve always dreamt of being a chef. From the age of 8 and growing up in Norfolk and cooking at home with my mother. It progressed further when we would travel to France and I would try the local and regional cuisine. So this is where my love of food came from.
Being a Michelin star head chef- Do you ever feel the pressure to maintain the quality that people are used to?
I think the pressure in any kind of business is always there. Working in a kitchen is quite a stressful environment and cooking to a high standard and keeping it consistent all the time can put a lot of pressure on you.
You released a book in 2008 which focused on Fish. Is this your favourite food to cook and do you have any tips on how to cook this the correct way?
Fish for a lot of people is always very difficult. I think people get scared of what to do with it. How to take the bones out, how to scale it. But if you can get your fishmonger to do it then that’s half the battle. There are so many different ways to cook a fish from grilling, steaming, baking, and frying. One of the most problematic ways is to pan-fry it. I always say to people just simple bake it. Add olive oil and orange or lemon zest and some herbs to finish it off.
You support the charity, School Food Matters, which teaches young children basic cooking skills. How important is it to teach children the basics of cooking from a young age?
Very important! It’s a very valuable skill to have. A lot of adults today say they can’t cook to save their life. It’s one of the things that we take for granted because people are so busy in their lives and the easiest option, for some, is to go to the supermarket and get a ready meal. The practicalities of cooking are that people are either scared, as they don’t have the understanding, but I think it’s a skill that we should be taught in school. It shouldn’t be seen as a task, it’s a fun thing to do. If you position it in the right manor the kids understand.
What other projects do you have in line for the rest of the year?
I’m opening another ‘Toms Kitchen’ in St.Catherines Dock in a couple of weeks and then I have a couple of other projects outside the UK, in Hong Kong and Dubai
Tom Aikens is working with Walkers on the launch of new Market Deli which is available nationwide now. For more information, visit: www.Walkersdeli.co.uk