Based in the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen in Holloway, Yotam spends much of his time creating and testing recipes for his column in the Guardian, on-going cookery books and programmes for television. When he is not creating and cooking, testing, tasting and tweaking, he is overseeing the day-to-day running of the shops and restaurant. This involves more testing, tasting and tweaking so when he is not doing this he tries very hard to do something other than eat. Family life and pilates are his much-loved distractions.
Ottolenghi’s strategic thinker, Noam has his ear tuned to the gentle humming of the company. Noam also keeps a check on our longer-term plans, as the Ottolenghi family grows in size and age. Using his past experience as a homeopath, Noam listens, notes an imbalance and then intervenes as gently as possible, to steer things around and keep the ship sailing on the right track. Godfather to Yotam’s kids, he is now a father to boisterous twins of his own.
With a cooking style that is as inimitable as it has always been – vibrant and bold yet simple and honest – Sami holds the helm in the heat of the Ottolenghi kitchens since the first day we opened. Head chef, mentor to many, visionary behind so many of the longstanding and latest dishes, Sami’s precision, palate and panache is the heart and soul of the food we are renowned for. He is currently working on his first solo book, Falastin, which will be published in spring 2020, and also co-authored with Yotam the Ottolenghi Cookbook, published in 2008, and Jerusalem, published in 2012.
Cornelia came to Ottolenghi from Switzerland via an Australian bus station and a sign in our Notting Hill shop. She grew up in the Swiss mountains, but it was while travelling in Asia and Australia that she met her future English husband, whose mother then spotted a notice in the Ottolenghi window advertising for staff. Now she is a partner and the company’s general manager. She is the practical one - the one who organises everyone else and makes things work. She is the dynamic force which keeps the company running and her passion is the people as well as the food.
While much has changed since we opened shop in 2002 – the Ottolenghi team has expanded, new sites have appeared along with thriving restaurants and an on-line store, exciting new ingredients fill our cupboards, even bigger platters hold even taller displays of food – so much, crucially, has remained the same. Staff members who’ve been together for years, recipes, dishes and ingredients that are old and trusted favourites and a philosophy at the heart of all we do that is as true today as it ever was.
Simply put, we are very serious about making people happy through our food. To look at, to taste, to eat in-store or to take-away home, to order products on-line or when dining in our restaurants, the food that we create is often described as ‘sunny’. It’s full of harmonious contradictions: it’s vibrant and bold yet familiar and comforting; it’s beautiful to look at yet close to its original form; it’s full of surprising drama yet always comes together as one; it’s noisy yet peaceful, lip-smacking yet warm, simple yet daring. We are still cooking the food that we and our customers delight in and it’s still making us proud, happy and full of beans.
As ever, our food is freshly-made and (naturally!) free from preservatives and colouring. With few exceptions, we source our goods largely within Britain and sometimes from Europe. We are particularly proud to be working with many small, local, dedicated food producers from around the country. From East London organic fruit and veg cooperative to a Lincolnshire-based prawn farm which is the only sustainable such farm in Europe, to supporting farmers practising 100% grass-fed humanely-raised cattle, there is so much energy, passion and integrity going into the making of first-class ingredients.
The Mediterranean influence is still strong in our cooking but we are as likely, these days, to be reaching for the mirin and miso as we are towards the pomegranate molasses, olive oil and date syrup. The cupboard is wide, the menu ever-changing and the experiments ever-underway. We continue on with both a boundless enthusiasm and an unswerving dedication to detail. The result is some very merry- making food.