Listen to the text
Yotam Ottolenghi is not as famous around the globe as his colleagues, Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay. But in the UK, he is a real culinary star. Ottolenghi has a small empire of seven restaurants and delicatessens (also known as “delis”) in London. He is an author of nine bestselling cookbooks, and has been writing a weekly food column in the Guardian since 2006.
His path to the culinary world was very unusual. Yotam was born in 1968 in Jerusalem. He has always enjoyed cooking (and eating — even more so), but didn't think of it as a career. Ottolenghi completed a degree in comparative literature at Tel Aviv University and successfully defended his thesis in philosophy. But then, he realised that his scientific work will only be read by his professors. This was a turning point. The reaction of many people eating his cooking made him happier.
At 29, Ottolenghi decided to change his life. He moved to London to study at a culinary school and work in the kitchens. But the traditional English food did not excite him. He preferred the colourful Middle Eastern cuisine of his childhood.
Soon after, Ottolenghi met Sami Tamimi — another immigrant, who was also born in Jerusalem, but in a Palestinian family. In 2002, the two friends opened their first deli named Ottolenghi in Notting Hill. It was an overnight success. Brits fell in love with colours, textures and tastes of the Middle East. In 2014, the London Evening Standard noted that Ottolenghi had “radically rewritten the way Londoners cook and eat”.