Thursday, August 18, 2011
Yotam Ottolenghi. Chef. Writer. Activist. Israeli. London.
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Sami Tamimi + Yotam Ottolenghi.
Yotam Ottolenghi discusses growing up in Jerusalem and explains the initiatives that he was involved in, which aimed to discourage prejudice between Jewish and Arab children. Ottolenghi, explains the micro levels of macro projects - how, for example, a national project for reconciliation can be played out during meal times at family tables. This is an example of how politics and food are inextricably linked.
Moving to London in 1997 to begin his culinary career, Ottolenghi saw how the relationship between food and politics was universal. From French chauvinism at London's Cordon Bleu to battles over organic, food everywhere has a political persona. Ottolenghi ends with an anecdote of how he discovered that even the location of an Ottolenghi branch in Notting Hill, according to some, is political. Despite the recognition that the Ottolenghi chain is the result of an (admirable) Israeli-Palestinian partnership, some have suggested that Ottolenghi should be ashamed of his assumed Conservative affiliations on account of branch locations. Ottolenghi feels that the politics of food in London is a long way from the politics of food in Jerusalem.
After serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he studied philosophy at Tel-Aviv University. In 1997, he moved to the UK and trained at the Cordon Bleu in London. Ottolenghi worked as a pastry chef at The Capital restaurant in Knightsbridge. From there, he moved to the Kensington Place restaurants and eventually became head pastry chef at Baker and Spice in Chelsea, London. In 2002 he established the Ottolenghi deli with Sami Tamimi  and Noam Bar.
As of 2010, Ottolenghi has four outlets in London: Notting Hill, Kensington, Belgravia and Islington. The Islington branch is the only branch which is a full-blown restaurant, while the other branches are take-away delis/ cafes.
In February 2011 his company opened NOPI, a restaurant on Warwick Street in Soho, London.
Ottolenghi writes a weekly food column in the Guardian weekend Saturday magazine. For four years the column was titled The New Vegetarian, and in 2011 it was expanded to include other recipes. Ottolenghi published two best-selling cookery books, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, written with Sami Tamimi, and Plenty, winner of a Galaxy National Book Award 2010.. In 2011 Plenty was also published in the US, Germany and Holland.