The Philosopher Chef

  • Yotam Ottolenghi’s ideas are changing the way London eats.

by December 3, 2012

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December 3, 2012 Issue

ABSTRACT: PROFILE of chef Yotam Ottolenghi. At forty-three, Yotam Ottolenghi has an eponymous reach that extends to two hugely popular London restaurants, the flagship Ottolenghi, in Islington, and, in Soho, NOPI (for North of Piccadilly), as well as three packed gourmet delis, in Notting Hill, Kensington, and Belgravia. Ottolenghi himself is the author of a weekly food-and-recipe column in the Guardian and a vegetable cookbook called “Plenty,” and, with Sami Tamimi, his Palestinian executive chef, the co-author of two other cookbooks. No one who has grown up in the Mediterranean Middle East can really live without the textures and tastes of home. The food that Ottolenghi serves and writes about often includes them all, but it isn’t ethnic cooking and it certainly isn’t fusion. Ottolenghi grew up in Israel and, after falling in love with a Tel Aviv University student named Noam Bar, he moved with him to Amsterdam. There, after ending work on his master’s thesis, he began cooking in earnest. He worked for a few restaurants and a chain of bakeries before meeting Tamimi and later partnering with him, Bar, and general manager Cornelia Staeubli. The four partners have quietly changed the way people in Britain shop and cook and eat.

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