Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi

Herald Sun - Switched On - - ON THE BOX - COLIN VICK­ERY NATIONAL TV WRITER

Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi is a re­nais­sance man. The Is­raeli­born, Lon­don-based chef has mas­ter’s de­grees in phi­los­o­phy and com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture and edited the He­brew pages in Dutch-Jewish weekly NIW be­fore pur­su­ing a ca­reer in food.

A six-month course at the French cook­ery school Le Cor­don Bleu, in Lon­don in 1997, lit a spark in Ot­tolenghi; with the 48-year-old grad­u­at­ing to be­come a pas­try chef.

Af­ter meet­ing busi­ness part­ner Sami Tamimi, they opened up a string of Lon­don­based delis, be­fore Restau­rant Nopi was born in 2014.

Now Ot­tolenghi, the au­thor of four best-sell­ing cookbooks, is bring­ing his ex­per­tise to MasterChef Aus­tralia.

You have two mas­ter’s de­grees but turned to food. Why? I went to univer­sity and stud­ied but felt a sense I was miss­ing out on some­thing else. There was a frus­tra­tion at not be­ing able to do some­thing phys­i­cal. I felt my mind was racing but in a way that was not good for me be­cause it was re­lent­less. I found in a kitchen you can let your mind rest. Work­ing with my hands as a pas­try chef, which is very tac­tile, was re­lax­ing and lib­er­at­ing.

In these trou­bled times, can food make a dif­fer­ence? I of­ten ask my­self ‘what can I do in this world of Brexit and Trump and iso­la­tion­ism, to break that up a bit?” And what we do in kitchens is ex­tremely im­por­tant. It doesn’t change the world the way a politi­cian does, but we de­liver a mes­sage. The re­ally great things that have hap­pened in our world came when cul­tures met up and cre­ated new things. What se­cret did to share with con­tes­tants dur­ing your time on MasterChef? Like many of the con­tes­tants, I have come into cook­ing from a dif­fer­ent field in life. There is an ethos you have to go through a lot of mis­ery and tor­ture to be a good chef. I tried that for about three weeks in the 1990s and it com­pletely broke me. I thought ‘I’m not do­ing it that way’. You can make a great ca­reer in food, be cre­ative and even fa­mous with­out be­ing a com­plete b------.

How would you go as a con­tes­tant on the se­ries? I would do ter­ri­bly. I am full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the way they do things. This year, they are mostly younger. They have flex­i­bil­ity and drive. They think on their feet. Those kids have some bril­liant ideas.

You are an ad­vo­cate for gay mar­riage (Ot­tolenghi is mar­ried to Karl Ot­tolenghiAllen and lives in Lon­don with their two sons). I think it is ex­tremely im­por­tant to be vo­cal about what you stand for and be­lieve in. Be­ing quiet is not an op­tion. When I be­came a dad four years ago, I thought I would leave that pri­vate but then I thought ‘ac­tu­ally, I do have a re­spon­si­bil­ity’. Over the past decade or two, at­ti­tudes to­wards gay re­la­tion­ships, gay par­ent­hood and gay mar­riage have changed be­cause peo­ple were ex­tremely vis­i­ble about it.

WATCH MASTERCHEF AUS­TRALIA, CHAN­NEL 10, WEEK­DAYS, 7.30PM

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