Best-selling author Yotam Ottolenghi presents his new book in Berlin, and fans are delighted. Do they still have to go to London to dine with him?
You don’t get the chance to meet Jotham Ottolenghi in person very often. The man who is one of the most successful chefs and cookbook writers of our time is not on television or often in Germany. No wonder, because there is enough at home in London. It runs seven restaurants and islands, as well as its test kitchen, in which an international team develops new recipes. In recent years, his empire has grown to 400 employees, and there are always new cookbooks, for which the 53-year-old is well known.
So what do you do as a German fan if you want to experience the “guru of Middle Eastern cuisine” up close? Well, if you’re lucky, you might even snag a ticket to one of his books with Yotam Ottolenghi. He had the chance to do it again recently, after the all-new book “Ottolengi’s Test Kitchen, More Goodies” came out recently, and Ottolenghi and co-author and kitchen manager Nur Murad presented the work at Dussmann in Friedrichstrasse. .
The event’s 130 tickets sold out in no time. For example, for Ingo Ehlers, who works as a chef himself and stands behind the stove in the Kreuzberg restaurant. Or at home, who has been a fan of Ottoleggi since the “Jerusalem” cookbook and cooks many of his recipes. “I like the crossover idea of Israeli and European cuisine,” says Ehlers, who has eaten at London’s Ottolenghi restaurant Nopi.
But even those who aren’t yet fans of the Jerusalem-born Israeli-British star chef will at least feel closer to him after an hour on the Dousman stage. Yotham Ottolenghi is a smart, engaging man, casually taking to the stage in Chucks and jeans, not allowing any airs and pains or any suspicion of professional chef-like pomposity.
DK Publishers/Elena Heatherwick
The publisher running the event asks if the kids are also fans of his dishes. Ottolenghi dismisses this with a laugh: The children are seven and nine years old and like to eat pancakes and eggs in the morning. In another way, they are completely normal children, because the following applies: “Never argue about food – you always win.” In everyday life, as we have already learned elsewhere, her husband Karl often cooks. “He usually makes tacos with vegetables, avocado and cilantro. Or Asian noodles with vegetables, it’s not too intense. I’m in charge of breakfast and I make cheese and egg omelets for the kids or soft-boiled eggs with pumpkin, olives and bread, just like when I was a kid in Israel.”
Top the grilled Ottolingi with a little feta
The book is more ambitious, already in the preface the verb “ottolengize” is not in any dictionary, but one entry can be read as follows. Giving a particular person a charisma that makes them stand out from the crowd. When it starts.
They love recipes that are characterized by something, the play with textures and aromas, spices, acidity and sweetness. The publisher claims that Ottolenghi’s books have sold more than two million copies in Germany alone. In many kitchens, the spice rack is slowly flowing, and in many German families it has changed the daily cooking. Ottolenghi is sometimes said to have sexed the cauliflower. Or vegetables in general.
DK Publishers/Elena Heatherwick
On the other hand, the name may not mean anything to others and some people ask Mr. Lenghi because they think that his name is Otto Lenghi, the son of Italian and German. And many hobby cooks also struggle with the recipes because you need a lot of ingredients that can’t be found around the corner of the supermarket. Yotam Ottolenghi can reassure the skeptics: the books are not biblical, you can leave something out or replace some spices with others. “If you can’t find one kind of chili, just get another.”
It’s that simple, and in the new book he recommends a small, clever addition that you can prepare ahead of time and use to flavor other dishes. Ottolenghi’s favorite is the za’atar tomatoes, which are served with fried polenta. To this end, cherry tomatoes are sautéed in the oven with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, followed by sugar and za’atar, a spice from North African and Arabic cuisine. Herbs are added later, everything stays in the fridge for a week and goes well with bruschetta or pasta, it emphasizes the cooking, which came only by moving around with his current needs.
Ottolenghi first studied philosophy and literature in Tel Aviv. “But only one person read my thesis, that wasn’t enough of a reach for me,” Ottolenghi joked, and once again hearts were flying to him in the room. In the year In 1997, he moved to London, where he graduated from a cooking school. The rest is history.
Incidentally, the vegetarian food specialist, who is not a vegetarian himself, spent three months in Berlin. That was in the early 1990s, when he was studying German here at the Goethe Institute. A good keyword to ask for: After all, there are always rumors that Ottolenghi is opening a restaurant in Berlin. The famous chef regrets that these rumors are false: he loves the city, but they have no concrete plans in this direction yet. Well, as the saying goes, if it isn’t, it still might be.
Yotam Ottolenghi, Nur Murad: Ottolenghi test kitchen: more goodies. How good food can be. 256 pages, €24.95, published by DK-Verlag.