Yotam Ottolenghi: "In today's world, one gains fame through followers, but my focus is on the art of cooking."

Sveva Valeria Castegnaro
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Yotam Ottolenghi reflects on the "empty concept" of celebrity chefs: the goal is to cook, not to have many followers on Instagram. And then: "I realized that one can be happy without relentlessly pursuing success." The interview.

The interview

Books that have become real bestsellers, television programs, seven restaurants in London with one soon to be inaugurated in Paris, but above all, a cuisine that is a true interweaving of cultures and flavors, changing the way Londoners eat; despite all this (and much more), Yotam Ottolenghi does not like to be classified as a celebrity.

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"Many people consider me famous, but if you think about it, what does it mean to be a celebrity? Today, anyone can be one if they have many followers on social media. My daily life, however, is about cooking, thinking, experimenting, and being hospitable. The notion of a 'famous chef' is empty, superficial. What I believe is that chefs are gradually getting closer to other themes like culture or the environment. But that's another story," Yotam tells La Vanguardia. A vision that the chef, a naturalized Briton of Israeli origin, has embraced even more after COVID. Since then, Yotam has understood the importance of taking his own space and dedicating time to his family.

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"I spend my free time with my children, who are at an age where we can do things together; I also like to play Nintendo Switch with them, although I lose almost every time, except three days ago. I am very competitive; however, I have realized that peace of mind is achievable without relentlessly pursuing success. I never thought I could spend a few weeks doing less than usual, but now I feel like I have freed myself: I know I could be quite satisfied even with less notoriety. It's a nice feeling. Before, I was probably a victim of that mechanism," he told Cook some time ago.

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Despite dedicating more time to himself and his loved ones, Yotam has not at all diverted his commitment and dedication from the kitchen, where vegetables, spices, and legumes take center stage, mixed and combined in dishes that are an homage to Mediterranean tradition and the meeting of cultures part of his DNA. So, Israel, Italy, France, and the Mediterranean. If the ingredient and its respect are two fundamental concepts for Ottolenghi, the aesthetics of the dish are no less important. "My role is to try, imagine, combine, and have a powerful team that provides better ideas than one person alone. When I create a dish, before realizing it, I think a lot, and I like to experiment with the presentation because I am fascinated by its appearance. Sometimes I have the ideal image in my head long before I get there. I don't consider myself an artist, but the truth is that art influences everything, including food, of course."

yotam ottolenghi polpette vegetali

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