Yotam Ottolenghi Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi (born 14 December 1968) is an Israeli-born British chef, recipe writer and restaurant owner.
Yotam Ottolenghi is a British citizen. He was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Jerusalem's Ramat Denya neighbourhood. He has an older sister, Tirza Florentin and a late younger brother, Yiftach. He served in the IDF Army-intelligence headquarters. 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. 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. 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.
Style of cooking
Ottolenghi's cooking style is rooted in 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". 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
Before turning to food and cooking, Ottolenghi was active 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. 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.
Early cookery training and experience
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 Restaurant, 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
Together with Noam Bar, Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi set up the first Ottolenghi deli in Notting Hill in 2002, selling both sweet and savoury food. Joined later by Swiss-born general manager Cornelia Staeubli, Ottolenghi often describes the success of the business as a team-based effort. The food in Ottolenghi is known to be bold, exciting, sometimes challenging. Three more delis opened: Islington (2004), Kensington (2005), which closed in 2013, and Belgravia (2007). A formal restaurant, NOPI (2011), followed and a further restaurant opened off Spitalfields market in London in 2014.
Design of the delis and restaurants
Behind the design of the delis and restaurants is architect Alex Meitlis who, together with the Ottolenghi team has created a bold image: signature white tables and counters that provide a blank canvas for the colours of the food. The Soho restaurant NOPI has a different look with masses of marble and brass. NOPI was the winner of the Gourmet award at the Conde Naste Traveller 2011 Innovation and Design awards. In 2012 the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards awarded NOPI as the winner of the best Identity category.
Ottolenghi is known for emphasizing the use of vegetables at the same time as eating and loving meat. He 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". This remark led to controversy within the vegetarian community encouraging Ottolenghi to later recant via Twitter: "To all, fish eaters are NOT vegetarians". 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" – 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". The recipes in his column in The Guardian 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 as of 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 .
Ottolenghi, Yotam; Tamimi, Sami (6 September 2012). Jerusalem. 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". 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.
- BBC4 documentary, Jerusalem on a Plate
Broadcast in December 2011, Ottolenghi met and cooked in Jerusalem with both Arabs and Jews in restaurants and at home, drawing on hundreds of years of tradition.
- More 4, Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast
Broadcast in November 2012, a culinary journey of discovery through Morocco, Istanbul, Tunisia and Israel.
- More 4, Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Island Feast
Broadcast in November 2013. Ottolenghi traveled to Corsica, Mallorca, Sardinia and Crete, exploring the flavours and secrets of these culinary jewels.
Co-judge of BBC Radio 4's Food and farming Awards 2016.
Activism and politics
Ottolenghi's business partner, Sami Tamimi, was born and raised in the Palestinian Territories; Yotam Ottolenghi was born and raised in Israel. The link between food and politics is not one that is overly important to the two men, who didn't meet until they were both living and working in London, in 1999. They are, however, happy to be persuaded that the making and eating of hummus may help 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". The so-called 'hummus wars' – "the political and nationalistic discussions about hummus" – are detailed by Ottolenghi in his cook book, Jerusalem.
Ottolenghi is a supporter of gay marriage and parenting. In an article on coming out as a gay parent, he discussed how important he thinks it is for surrogacy to be an option more widely available to those who cannot conceive naturally.
Ottolenghi is openly gay. He and his husband, Karl Ottolenghi-Allen, live in London with their two sons.
- 2010 Galaxy National Book Awards "Food and Drink Book of the Year" for Plenty
- 2010 Observer Food Monthly's "Best Cookbooks Ever", Plenty ranked number 40
- 2011 Condé Nast Traveler "Innovation and Design Awards", NOPI, winner of the Gourmet award 
- 2011 Observer Food Monthly's "Best Cookbook Award" winner for Plenty
- 2012 Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, "Identity" category for the restaurant Nopi
- 2012 Guild of Food Writers Awards, "Kate Whiteman Award for Work on Food and Travel" for Jerusalem on a Plate (BBC4)
- 2013 James Beard Award "International Cookbook" for Jerusalem
- 2013 Guild of Food Writers Awards, "Cookery Book Award" for Jerusalem
- 2013 Guild of Food Writers Awards, "Evelyn Rose Award for Cookery Journalist" for journalism in The Guardian
- 2013 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, the Dun Gifford Award winner for Jerusalem
- 2013 International Association of Culinary Professionals Awards, winner of the International award and the Best Cookbook award for Jerusalem
- 2013 Fortnum and Mason Food and Drink Awards, "Television Programme of the Year" for Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast (Keo Films)
- 2013 German Gastronomic Academy Silver Medal for Jerusalem
- 2013 Observer Food Monthly "Best Cookbook Award" for Jerusalem
- 2014 Specsavers National Book Awards "Food and Drink Book of the Year" for Plenty More
- 2015 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University
- 2016 James Beard Award "Cooking from a Professional Point of View" for NOPI, the Cookbook
- Ottolenghi, Yotam (1 May 2008). Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-192234-4.
- Ottolenghi, Yotam (29 April 2010). Plenty. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-193368-5.
- Ottolenghi, Yotam; Tamimi, Sami (6 September 2012). Jerusalem. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0091943745.
- Ottolenghi, Yotam (11 September 2014). Plenty More. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0091957155.
- Ottolenghi, Yotam; Scully, Ramael (10 September 2015). Nopi. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 1607746239.