Why did we choose Yotam Ottolenghi as our first social cooking inspiration?
His food is all about sharing.
"It is interesting to see how you start a conversation talking about bulgur wheat or stock and immediately it turns into family and history .... And I love these connections, I love seeing how food is a gateway to a bigger conversation."
Ottolenghi is described as Israeli-English, but his mother, from a Berlin Jewish family who had come to Palestine via Sweden, was instrumental in introducing culinary diversity.
His Florentine father gave him an appreciation of simplicity. His 'last supper' dish is still his nonna's gnocchi alla romana — semolina dumplings, grilled with parmesan and butter.
Jerusalem's food tradition is itself the product of extraordinary diversity and a complex encounter between disparate cultures — from Ashkenazi Jews to Muslim Palestinians, Sephardic Jews from North Africa to Christian Arabs and Armenian Orthodox. In between, his mother liked to experiment with food.
"I remember my mum .... would make Malaysian curries and Tiramisu and sabayons and things that were from very different, diverse cultures."
This intricate culinary background furnished Ottolenghi not only with an appetite for certain flavours but for an appreciation of the origins and the cultural significance of food.
His food is also about simplicity and being able to be cooked at home. His recipes are rigorously tested, but can all be cooked without commercial equipment. His test kitchen has no sous vide or other fancy gear....
"I made it particularly unglamorous because I didn't want any high tech equipment, because it's all about home cooking. It needs to feel like anyone's kitchen."
He also shops in normal supermarkets and doesn't get the top of the range ingredients from the local Italian deli because not everyone can get that.
"There's all sorts of other things I worry about like health and sustainability, but the flavours were always first.
There's a lot to like in all of this and the final word goes to Yotam. The chef who once famously and evocatively summed up his ambition as creating:
"drama in the mouth".