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 and growing up in Jerusalem's Ramat Denya neighbourhood.[1] He has an older sister, Tirza Florentin and a late younger brother, Yiftach. 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[2] 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.[2]

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 textures and flavours from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia. His palate of flavours is unapologetically bold and loud: “noisy”.[3] Signature dishes include 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 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.[4]

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 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.[4] The food in Ottolenghi is known to be bold, exciting, sometimes challenging.[3] Three more gourmet delis opened: Islington (2004), Kensington (2005), which closed in 2013, and Belgravia (2007). One formal restaurant, NOPI (2011), has followed.

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,[5] the Ottolenghi team created a clear, bold image: signature white tables provide a blank canvas for the vibrant colours of the food. The bathroom facilities 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’.[6] NOPI was the winner of the Gourmet award at the Conde Naste Traveller 2011 Innovation and Design awards.[7] In 2012 the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards awarded NOPI as the winner of the best Identity category.[8]


Yotam is known for being the champion of vegetables at the same time as eating and loving meat. 'The man who sexed up vegetables'[9] 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'.[10] This unintentionally provocative remark encouraged controversy within the vegetarian community encouraging Ottolenghi to later recant via Twitter:: “To all, fish eaters are NOT vegetarians”.[11] 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”[12] – 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”.[13] 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. Winner of a Galaxy National Book Award 2010 .[citation needed]

Ottolenghi, Yotam; Tamimi, Sami (6 September 2012). Jerusalem.[14] 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".[15] 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.

Television series'[edit]

BBC4 documentary, “Jerusalem on a Plate”, December 2011, 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’.[16]

More 4, “Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feasts”, November 2012, a culinary journey of discovery through Morocco, Istanbul, Tunisia and Israel.[17]

More 4, “Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Island Feasts”, November 2013. Ottolenghi travels to Corsica, Mallorca, Sardinia and Crete, exploring the flavours and secrets of these culinary jewels. [18]


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”.[13] The so-called ‘hummus wars’ – “the political and nationalistic discussions about hummus”[19] – are detailed by Ottolenghi in his cookery book, Jerusalem.

Ottolenghi is a champion of gay marriage[20] 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.[21]

Other interests[edit]

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


Published works[edit]


  1. ^ Bittman, Mark (1 December 2011) Yotam Ottolenghi’s International Cuisine. New York Times
  2. ^ a b c [1][dead link]
  3. ^ a b Mishan Ligaya (26 April 2011) A Chef Who Is Vegetarian in Fame if Not in Fact. New York Times
  4. ^ a b The Philosopher's Chef. Newyorker.com (3 December 2012). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  5. ^ Alex Meitlis. Alex Meitlis. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  6. ^ Gilty Pleasures. Independent.co.uk (6 March 2011). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  7. ^ London's Blooming Restaurants. Cntraveller.com (27 May 2011). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  8. ^ Archive winners list and images from 2011/12 | Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. Restaurantandbardesignawards.com. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  9. ^ Voyaer, BMI magazine (January 2011)
  10. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi quoted in Chole Scott (29 March 2011) "Time for a fresh start" Metro newspaper
  11. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi quoted in Ligaya Mishan (27 April 2011) “Vegetarian in Fame if not in Fact”, The New York Times
  12. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi, quoted in www.vegetarianliving.co.uk
  13. ^ a b Yotam Ottolenghi, quoted in Jane Kramer (3 December 2012) “The philosopher’s chef”, The New Yorker
  14. ^ "Food bridging Israeli, Palestinian divide". CNN. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  15. ^ Jane Kramer (3 December 2012) "The philosopher's chef", The New Yorker
  16. ^ BBC Four – Jerusalem on a Plate. Bbc.co.uk (13 November 2012). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  17. ^ Ottolenghis Mediterranean Feast. channel4.com
  18. ^ Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Island Feast – Episode Guide. Channel 4. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  19. ^ Ottolenghi, Yotam and Tamimi, Sami, Jerusalem (2012), pp112-113
  20. ^ Ottolenghi on Twitter: "RT @ivanwhite48: Jeffrey Archer against gay marriage. That makes us even, as I'm against convicted criminals in the House of Lords.". Twitter.com (17 November 2012). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  21. ^ Yotam Ottolenghi: why I'm coming out as a gay father | Life and style. The Guardian (13 March 2014). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  22. ^ Observer Food Monthly (15 August 2010)
  23. ^ Observer Food Monthly Awards 2011 Best Cookbook: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi | Life and style. The Guardian (18 September 2015). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  24. ^ Restaurant and Bar Design Awards – Entry 2011/12. Web.archive.org (11 January 2013). Retrieved on 2015-09-23.
  25. ^ 2013 JBF Award Winners , The James Beard Foundation. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  26. ^ a b The Guild of Food Writers – the professional association of food writers and broadcasters in the UK. Gfw.co.uk. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  27. ^ (Spanish) Gourmand Awards Winners 2013 Cookbook. Cookbookfair.com. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  28. ^ IACP35 Award Winners 2013. iacp.com
  29. ^ Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards 2015. Fortnumandmasonawards.com. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  30. ^ Guardian News & Media press release: Observer Food Monthly Awards announces winners for 2013 | GNM press office. The Guardian. Retrieved on 23 September 2015.
  31. ^ "Mary Berry wins outstanding achievement book award". BBC News. 27 November 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 

External links[edit]