Yotam Ottolenghi

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Yotam Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi.jpg
Born December 1968 (age 46)
Occupation Chef, writer
Nationality British, Israeli, Italian

Yotam Ottolenghi (born 14 December 1968) is a British-based chef, cookery writer and restaurant owner.


Yotam Ottolenghi is a British-based cookery writer and chef-patron. Born in Jerusalem, the son of Michael – an Italian-born professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – and Ruth – a German-born high-school principal - he grew up in Jerusalem's Ramat Denya neighbourhood.[1] He has an older sister, Tirza Florentin – a businessperson who lives in Tel Aviv with her family – and a younger brother, Yiftach, who was killed by friendly fire during field exercises towards the end of his military service in the Israel Defence Forces. Yotam avoided assignment to a fighting unit with the IDF, attending the Army-intelligence headquarters instead. He studied at Tel Aviv University before completing a master's degree in comparative literature. At this time he also worked on the news desk of Haaretz, one of Israel’s largest daily papers.[2] In 1997 he moved to the UK planning to start a PhD, but before he enrolled he signed up to train at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in London for six months where he has lived ever since.[3] He got a job as head pastry chef at the London boutique bakery Baker & Spice and this is where he met Sami Tamimi and Dan Lepard.[4] He received his British citizenship in 2012. He lives in West London with his partner, Karl Allen. They have a son, Max.

Style of cooking[edit]

Ottolenghi's cooking style is rooted in, but not confined to, his Middle Eastern upbringing: “a distinctive mix of Middle Eastern flavours – Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian, Israeli and Armenian – with a western twist”. His “particular skill is in marrying the food of his native Israel with a wider range of incredible textures and flavours from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia. To compile a take-out box of goodies [. . . ] is to fulfil a culinary fantasy'.[5] His palate of flavours is unapologetically bold and loud: “noisy”.[6] Signature dishes include his butternut squash salad with red onion, tahini and za'atar, roasted aubergine with turmeric yogurt and pomegranate seeds, chargrilled broccoli with chilli and fried garlic and the famously enormous "traffic-stopping, cartoonishly-huge horned"' meringues.

Academia and journalism[edit]

Before turning to food and cooking, Ottolenghi was in both academia and journalism. He was a sub-editor on the news desk of Haaretz, Israel's oldest daily newspaper, and a student in Tel Aviv University. In 1997 he moved to Amsterdam with his then-partner Noam Bar, soon to become a partner in Ottolenghi. While in Amsterdam he completed his master's degree in philosophy and comparative literature; his thesis was on the ontological status of the photographic image in aesthetic and analytic philosophy. During his time there, Ottolenghi edited the Hebrew pages of a Dutch-Jewish weekly, NIW.[7]

Early cookery training and experience[edit]

Following a six-month course at the London-based French cookery school, Le Cordon Bleu, in 1997, Ottolenghi worked as a pastry chef at The Capital, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Knightsbridge. From there he moved to work in the pastry section of the Kensington Place restaurant and that of the sister restaurant, Launceston Place, for a year, under the chef Rowley Leigh. He eventually became head pastry chef at Baker and Spice in Chelsea, London, where he met Sami Tamimi – co-founder of their delicatessens and restaurants and co-author of the Ottolenghi and Jerusalem cookery books – in 1999.

Ottolenghi delis and restaurant[edit]

Together with Noam Bar, Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi– all born in Israel but now London-living – set up the first Ottolenghi deli in Notting Hill in 2002, with an aim to sell the best take away food in London, both sweet and savoury. Joined later by Swiss-born general manager Cornelia Staeubli, Ottolenghi often describes the success of the business as a team-based effort.[8] The food in Ottolenghi is known to be bold, exciting, sometimes challenging.[9] Three more gourmet delis opened: Islington (2004), the “state-of-the-art deli and diner […] an all-day, muesli-to-Muscat kind of place where you can drop in to enjoy seriously good food […] on the premises, or fill your bags with those exquisite home-cooked goodies you never quite had time to cook at home" ); Kensington (2005), which closed in 2013, and Belgravia (2007). One formal restaurant, NOPI (2011), has followed. They are all highly successful and credited, through their popularisation of previously hard-to-source ingredients, with "quietly chang[ing] the way people in Britain shop and cook and eat".[10]

Award-winning design of the delis and restaurants[edit]

The design of the delis and restaurant is an integral part of the Ottolenghi experience. Led by architect Alex Meitlis,[11] the Ottolenghi team created a clear, bold image: signature white tables provide a blank canvas for the vibrant colours of the food. The loos at NOPI always get a mention when the restaurant is reviewed – “worthy of mention [. . . ] divine: a room made of mirrors set at different facets. . . super-glamorous and beautiful’.[12] NOPI was the winner of the Gourmet award at the Conde Naste Traveller 2011 Innovation and Design awards.[13] In 2012 the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards awarded NOPI as the winner of the best Identity category.[14]


He is also known for being the champion of vegetables at the same time as eating and loving meat. 'The man who sexed up vegetables'[15] defends the right to have an approach to cooking and eating that does not fit in with conventional distinctions and barriers: ‘You can be vegetarian and eat fish [...] there are no hard core divisions any more'.[16] This unintentionally-provocative remark encouraged controversy within the vegetarian community encouraging Ottolenghi to later recant via twitter:: “To all, fish eaters are NOT vegetarians”.[17] Author of “The New Vegetarian” column in the Guardian magazine from 1996 to 2010, his weekly recipe contributions were, at first, exclusively vegetarian although, again, he courted controversy by mentioning where a particular dish would work well with a cut of meat or fish. Maintaining his position against the traditional distinctions and barriers between meat and vegetables – “I’m not burdened by rules, I don’t think in terms of ideology”[18] – his relationship with vegetables is to “celebrate vegetables or pulses without making them taste like meat, or as complements to meat, but to be what they are. It does no favour to vegetarians, making vegetables second best. Meat should be a celebration, not everyday. There is so much else out there”.[19] The recipes in his Guardian column have been expanded to include meat since 2010. Plenty and Plenty More, Ottolenghi’s sole-authored recipe collections, are entirely vegetarian. His two books co-authored with Sami Tamimi, Ottolenghi and Jerusalem, include meat and fish dishes.


As well as his weekly food column in the weekend Saturday edition of the Guardian, Ottolenghi has published four best-selling cookery books, which sold (February 2014) over 2 million copies worldwide:

Ottolenghi, Yotam, Tamimi, Sami (1 May 2008). Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-192234-4. A collection of both savoury and sweet recipes with 8 published editions.

Ottolenghi, Yotam (29 April 2010). Plenty. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-193368-5. A collection of over 100 original recipes and dishes first developed for the Guardian Weekend Magazine’s “New Vegetarian” column, with photography from Jonathon Lovekin.[20] Winner of a Galaxy National Book Award 2010 . An international bestseller, Plenty has 11 published editions.

Ottolenghi, Yotam; Tamimi, Sami (6 September 2012). Jerusalem.[21] Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0091943745 "about the food of their home town and the rich symbiosis of Arab and Jewish culinary traditions that survives in the markets and kitchens of an otherwise fractured city".[22] This has 11 published editions.

Plenty More (11 September 2014) Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09195-715-5 is, like Plenty a collection of vegetarian recipes, including sweet and savoury dishes. This has 4 published editions. Rights which have been acquired but not yet published are Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, Korean, Danish, Swedish and French Canadian.

Ottolenghi writes a blog which includes regular updates on the deli and restaurant developments and happenings, along with blogs from the road abroad, when promoting his books. NOPI blog's motto is "trying to reveal our moments of crisis, times of heightened emotions and everyday aspects of this wonderful creation"

Television series'[edit]

BBC4 documentary, “Jerusalem on a Plate”, December 2011, directed by James Nutt, where ‘Ottolenghi returns to his home town of Jerusalem to discover the hidden treasures of its extraordinarily rich and diverse food culture. He meets and cooks with both Arabs and Jews in restaurants and at home who draw on hundreds of years of tradition to create the dishes that define the city, and explores the flavours and recipes that have influenced his palate’.[23]

More 4, “Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feasts”, November 2012, produced by Jules Whomsley and directed by James Nutt for Keo Film Productions;[24] a culinary journey of discovery through Morocco, Istanbul, Tunisia and Israel.[25]

More 4, “Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Island Feasts”, November 2013, directed by James Nutt for Keo Film Productions; Yotam travels to Corsica, Mallorca, Sardinia and Crete, exploring the flavours and secrets of these culinary jewels. [26]

Teaching and lectures[edit]

Food writing course at Arvon foundation, Devon, in February 2010[27]

Food writing course for the Guardian April 2012[28]

SOAS lecture as part of the Food Studies Centre's Lecture series, "Jerusalem on a Plate: Identity, Traditions and Ownership", 12th November 2014


While much is often made of the fact that Sami Tamimi was born and raised in Palestine and Yotam Ottolenghi was born and raised in Israel, the link between food and politics is not one that is overtly forged by the two men, who didn’t meet until they were both living and working in London, in 1999. They are, when pressed, happy to be persuaded that the making and eating of hummus may help, as well as anything else, to forge links in the Middle East: “It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it – what have we got to lose? – to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will”.[29] The so-called ‘hummus wars’ – “the political and nationalistic discussions about hummus”[30] – are detailed by Ottolenghi in his cookery book, Jerusalem.

Ottolenghi is a champion of gay marriage[31] and parenting. In an article ‘coming out’ as a gay parent, he outlined his desire for surrogacy to be an option more widely available to those who cannot conceive naturally.[32]

Other interests[edit]

Ottolenghi is a qualified Pilates instructor. Though not instructing, he practises the discipline regularly.


Published works[edit]


  1. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi’s International Cuisine
  2. ^ http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2009/02/yotam-ottolenghi-profile
  3. ^ http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2009/02/yotam-ottolenghi-profile
  4. ^ http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2009/02/yotam-ottolenghi-profile
  5. ^ Markwell, Lisa (6 March 2011). "Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, London W1". The Independent (London). 
  6. ^ A Chef Who Is Vegetarian in Fame if Not in Fact
  7. ^ The Philosopher's Chef
  8. ^ The Philosopher's Chef
  9. ^ A Chef Who Is Vegetarian in Fame if Not in Fact
  10. ^ The Philosopher's Chef
  11. ^ Alex Meitlis
  12. ^ Gilty Pleasures
  13. ^ London's Blooming Restaurants
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Voyaer, BMI magazine (January 2011)
  16. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi quoted in Chole Scott (29 March 2011) "Time for a fresh start" Metro newspaper
  17. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi quoted in Ligaya Mishan (27 April 2011) “Vegetarian in Fame if not in Fact”, The New York Times
  18. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi, quoted in www.vegetarianliving.co.uk
  19. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi, quoted in Jane Kramer (3 December 2012) “The philosopher’s chef”, The New Yorker
  20. ^ http://jonathanlovekin.com/
  21. ^ "Food bridging Israeli, Palestinian divide". CNN. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Jane Kramer (3 December 2012) "The philosopher's chef", The New Yorker
  23. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017znj9
  24. ^ ://www.keofilms.com/production/ottolenghis-mediterranean-feast/
  25. ^ http://www.channel4.com/programmes/ottolenghis-mediterranean-feast/4od
  26. ^ http://www.channel4.com/programmes/ottolenghis-mediterranean-island-feast/episode-guide
  27. ^ http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/blog/2013/02/06/food-writing-course/
  28. ^ "A Day of Food Writing with Rowley Leigh and Yotam Ottolenghi". The Guardian (London). 26 November 2010. 
  29. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi, quoted in Jane Kramer (3 December 2012) “The philosopher’s chef”, The New Yorker
  30. ^ Ottolenghi, Yotam and Tamimi, Sami, Jerusalem (2012), pp112-113
  31. ^ https://twitter.com/ottolenghi/status/269881124413661184
  32. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/aug/03/yotam-ottolenghi-gay-fatherhood-parenting
  33. ^ Observer Food Monthly (15 August 2010)
  34. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/oct/16/ofm-awards-2011-best-cookbook
  35. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20130111085138/http://www.restaurantandbardesignawards.com/awards/2012/winners
  36. ^ 2013 JBF Award Winners , The James Beard Foundation. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
  37. ^ a b http://www.gfw.co.uk/stop-article.cfm?ArticleID=735
  38. ^ http://www.cookbookfair.com/index.php/gourmand-awards/winners-2013-gg/gourmand-awards-winners-2013-cookbook
  39. ^ https://www.iacp.com/documents/IACP35_AwardWinners_2013_FINAL.pdf
  40. ^ http://www.fortnumandmasonawards.com/
  41. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/gnm-press-office/heston-blumenthal-wins-chef-of-the-decade-at-the-observer-food-monthly-awards-2013
  42. ^ "Mary Berry wins outstanding achievement book award". BBC News. 27 November 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2015. 

External links[edit]