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Five things you may not know about Yotam Ottolenghi

Discover the recipe behind the culinary hero’s success

Marcus Raue

Ahead of his return to the Sydney Opera House in January 2019, we dig into the surprising life of chef superstar and occasional MasterChef guest Yotam Ottolenghi.

He’s not actually a vegetarian

There’s no denying Ottolenghi’s huge impact in popularising vegetarian dishes. Despite being credited by The New York Times as “making it chic to eat your vegetables”, authoring several best-selling vegetarian cookbooks (Plenty and Plenty More), and penning a weekly Guardian column 'The New Vegetarian', Yottam Ottolenghi doesn’t actually abstain from eating meat. When questioned on the topic by The Australian, he revealed he just has more fun cooking with vegetables: “If you take a good cut of meat — the same applies to fish or seafood — you don’t need to do that much to it…Vegetables take a bit more work but they pay back with lots of TLC as well because they are good for you and they are much more versatile.”

Image: Evan Sung

He has a rap song named after him

Cementing his status as one of the coolest chefs in the world, Ottolenghi was recently exposed to new audiences via British rapper Loyle Carner, who titled his 2018 single 'Ottolenghi'.

Carner, who was recently featured on the cover of the first edition of GQ Hype, has expressed his admiration for Ottolenghi many times over. His ultimate dedication to the British-Israeli chef references Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Jerusalem. “They ask about the Bible I was reading,” raps Carner. “Told them the title was misleading, labelled it Jerusalem but really it’s for cooking Middle Eastern.” Ottolenghi makes a brief cameo in the music video.

He worked at the Intelligence Headquarters of the Israeli Defence Force

During high school, Ottolenghi studied Arabic in an attempt to avoid being assigned to a frontline-fighting unit for his mandatory military service. He was conscripted to the Israeli Defence Force aged 21, where he was stationed at the Intelligence Headquarters for the length of his service. In a 2013 New Yorker profile Ottolenghi remembers his time in the army fondly. It was during this period that he fell in love with Noam Bar, the future co-founder of his eponymous Notting Hill delicatessen, Ottolenghi.

He ‘came out’ as a gay father in 2013

In 2013, Ottolenghi wrote a Guardian Op-Ed titled ‘Why I’m coming out as a gay father’, revealing his struggle to have a child with his husband, Karl. From the couple’s initial plan to co-parent a child with a lesbian couple, to approaching a close friend to act as a surrogate, it was no easy process for the London-based couple. Eventually, five years after deciding to have a child, they travelled to America for gestational surrogacy (the process of conceiving a baby using another woman’s egg, which is illegal in the United Kingdom). After the lengthy and expensive process, the couple welcomed their first son, Max. “Max has already brought us immense joy. He has also forced our second coming out, this time as gay parents.”

Image: Thomas Butler

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