How did the COVID-19 lockdowns change the way you did things?
Lockdown cooking was so different in terms of having to put food on the table so many times a day. During lockdown, people discovered new ways of cooking. For example, ingredients that have been considered not as sexy – such as chickpeas and barley – really came into their own.
My last book, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love was all about celebrating those ingredients and creating delicious meals from things you think you can’t do much with. Like my Confit Tandoori – it’s just chickpeas, garlic and spices – in one pot. After one hour, you have an incredibly delicious stew –with cheap ingredients. It also means you can cook really well in spite of inflation.
During lockdown lot of restaurants had to shut down but in our restaurants, we improved technology and came up with different ways of serving people. Now, I find there is a kind of renaissance in restaurant dining.
Have you toured Australia and New Zealand before?
I’ve been to Australia many times for tours but I’ve not holidayed there – just been to the capital cities. Australia has an incredible way of mixing different cuisines – not a lot of places do it as well as Australia. It’s always inspiring. Australians are so well versed and knowledgeable – when you talk about food, you really feel people have a deep understanding.
This will be my first tour of New Zealand but I travelled a lot in NZ 10-12 years ago. I was taken around by a chef friend, Peter Gordon. I was most struck by the wonderful New Zealand baking and seafood… whitebait and kahawai.
What can we expect from your shows?
We’ll talk about recipes, ideas, entertaining, the state of the world and how I cook. It’s a conversation with the audience.
Twenty years ago, you said you wanted “drama in the mouth” as your cooking philosophy. Does this still hold true?
When I say ‘drama’, I mean not every bite is the same as the previous bite. In my recipes and dishes, there is quite a lot going on. There must be surprises. When you have a tomato soup, it’s one dimension. You know what to expect. My food is the opposite. Recently, we were making a beef pie. When we cut into it, it was a very one-dimensional experience. We were struggling with how to add more interest… something that makes you think ‘Wow!. We ended up adding olives and black garlic.
Do you have a favourite dish?
It changes from year to year. There are certain things I will always love, such as eggplant. My all-time favourite dishes would often include eggplant, for example roasted and tossed into a salad.
How about a secret vice?
I do eat a lot of chocolate and I’m indiscriminate – not just the good stuff. I like it every day.
What are you most proud of?
It’s not an achievement that you can put on the shelf in your study but when I speak to someone and they tell me that the food they cook every day is a dish that I’ve created – sometimes handed down from their parents – this is my most gratifying experience. That I have had a long-lasting influence.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Flavour of Life’ tour
Wednesday January 25, 2023 – Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland
Friday January 27, 2023 – Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Saturday, 21 January 2023 Canberra Theatre
Sunday, 22 January 2023 Sydney ICC
Monday, 23 January 2023 Adelaide Convention Centre
Saturday, 28 January 2023 Brisbane QPAC
Sunday, 29 January 2023 Melbourne Hamer Hall
Monday, 30 January 2023 Perth Concert Hall
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things is available now.