Sep 27, 2016

Yotam Ottolenghi

Written by Avantgarde
Reading time: 3 mins

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Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi (Twitter: @Ottolenghi), a 48-year old Israel-born journalist-turned-chef and an acclaimed cookbook author started his culinary journey in the year 1997 when he moved to London from Tel Aviv to pursue a PhD degree but instead ended up joining a 6-month training course at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school. Since then, he has come a long way to become one of Britain’s most renowned chef with a distinctive cooking style.

Before becoming a chef, Ottolenghi served in the Israel Defence Forces, earned a master’s degree in philosophy and literature at Tel Aviv University while also working as a part-time journalist at Haaretz, one of Israel’s largest daily papers.

His career in restaurants began as a pastry chef. After gaining experience and confidence in some of the best restaurants and bakeries of London like Baker and Spice and Launceston Place, Ottolenghi opened his first deli in 2002 in Notting Hill along with three other partners. Today, Ottolenghi owns and operates four gourmet delicatessen’s and one flagship restaurant named Nopi in Soho.

Most people who have tasted the food that Ottolenghi serves and writes about describe it as a classic combination of colours, textures and a taste of Middle Eastern style inspired cooking with a modern twist.

Success, which came almost immediately to Ottolenghi, can be greatly attributed to his unique and bold style of cooking combined with strategic branding that has made him a prominent name globally.

Another name involved in Ottolenghi’s success, without the mention of which this article would forever remain incomplete is that of Sami Tamimi (Twitter: @Samitamimi), one of his first friends in London, co-partner and co-author. Tamimi who avoids public attention at any cost, manages day-to-day operations of Ottolenghi’s restaurants while Ottolenghi himself focuses on writing and promotion.

He has so far released five best-selling cookbooks namely, Jerusalem, Plenty, Plenty More, Nopi and Ottolenghi: The cook book. He also writes a weekly food recipe column in The Guardian and has three British TV series. His column which was started 6 years back gained traction in such a short period of time among home-makers that the Waitrose supermarket chain began to stock his favourite condiments and spices.

Ottolenghi, who is involved in all the creative projects, works closely with design studios and small group of collaborators who understand his style and vision to contemplate new, unique and fascinating designs for his books as well as his restaurants that blends well with the style of cooking.  

The purpose behind the look and aesthetics of the four deli’s, as Ottolenghi has often stated in many interviews was to create a blank canvas wherein the food could speak for itself. The colourful and abundant display of beautifully decorated food in his deli’s is to intrigue the customers by appealing to all their senses. Nopi, on the other hand serves more formal dishes that go perfectly with the elegant white and brass built of the restaurant.

His books too have been carefully designed with an aim to display the essence of Ottolenghi’s distinctive style of cooking, with bold colours and pictures of beautiful, visually appetizing dishes.

With no plans to expand his deli’s outside London anytime in the near future, Ottolenghi has often justified the decision with reference to his unshakable oath of not compromising with the quality of the food which cannot be managed in the same manner from a distance. However, his plan to continue to create and share new recipes throughout the world through virtual and paper-bound mediums remains strong.  

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