Woolworths TASTE

THE OTTOLENGHI EFFECT

BY CELEBRITY chef standards, Ottolenghi’s repertoire is modest: he’s been cooking for 15 years and “only” has four delis, two restaurants and seven books to his name. But, thanks, in part, to his column in The Guardian “The New Vegetarian”, which began in 2006, his influence far exceeds the sum of these parts.

Known among the food literati as “the chef who made veggies cool”, Ottolenghi‘s name is often accompanied by an eye-roll and a reference to obscure ingredients (harissa, tahini, sumac), but it has also become a happy household adjective for heavily spiced, veg-focused dishes that are designed to be shared.

Born in Jerusalem, Yotam is of Italian-German Jewish descent, which explains the myriad cultural traditions that infuse his recipes. His latest book, Simple, is no exception, featuring dishes that promise the same “drama in the mouth” typical of all his food, just with fewer ingredients.

He was famously accepted into the “genius” academic programme at Tel Aviv University, from which he graduated with a Masters degree before swapping cooking for academia. His books have now sold over a million copies collectively, and without ever having set out to do it, he has joined the ranks of the pioneering chefs who have changed the way we eat.

“When people say Ottolenghi I think they mean vegetable-heavy cusine, which is bold in flavour – with a lot of herbs and spices. They mean something that doesn’t necessarily belong to one food tradition but takes inspiration from different parts of the world, while still focused on the food of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. I also think they mean food that is not fussy, but also thoughtful – there’s a lot of thought that goes into a dish; it’s very vibrant in terms of colours and textures and contrasts.

So for me it’s a very natural way to eat. I didn’t set out to make it [my sole purpose]. It’s also because I am aware that

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