Birthday: 14 December 1968
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Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli born British chef, restaurateur and food writer who is renowned for his intelligent, yet ultimately simple, use of flavours which has led him to be regarded as one of the best chefs in the world. Born in Israel to a chemistry teacher and high school principal, Ottolenghi shares both Italian Jewish and German Jewish descent. Growing up in Israel and spending summers in Italy, Ottolenghi was exposed to a wealth of cuisine. In his early twenties, Ottolenghi was conscripted to serve in the Israeli defence forces and served three years in the intelligence headquarters. He then went on to study a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in comparative literature at Tel Aviv university, at the same time working as a night copy editor for Haaretz. In 1997, Ottolenghi moved to Amsterdam and worked as an editor for the Hebrew section of the Dutch-Jewish weekly NIW, shortly after he moved to London to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu.
Ottolenghi went on to serve as a pastry chef at three different restaurants including the Michelin-starred Capital Restaurant before becoming head pastry chef at Baker and Spice, an artisanal pastry shop, meeting Sami Tamimi in the process, who would go on to become a business partner. In 2002 the pair opened Ottolenghi, the famous delicatessen in Notting Hill, which became an instant hit for its use of unique flavour combinations and fantastic produce paired with Middle Eastern opulence. Since then they have opened a range of restaurants, including more locations akin to the original Ottolenghi delicatessen under the same name as well as a brasserie (Nopi) and a vegetable-focused restaurant (Rovi).
In 2006 Ottolenghi started writing for The Guardian focusing on vegetarian recipes. This, paired with his vegetable focus in his restaurants has led many to believe he is a vegetarian, despite him not actually being so - he often suggests meat pairings to go with his dishes. His down-to-Earth writing style looks to champion vegetables and pulses without making them taste like meat or play second fiddle to it. In 2008 he published his debut cookbook Ottolenghi which was hugely popular and widely regarded and he has since gone on to write lots more, all of which continue his focus on ingredients and intelligent flavour combinations. His name has become synonymous with delicious food and quality and his books continue to be highly respected within the culinary community.