REVIEW: Yotam Ottolenghi: A Life In Flavour, York Theatre Royal, September 21

Yotam Ottolenghi: Food for thought and thoughts for food at York Theatre Royal

TO complement this season’s York Food and Drink Festival, here was the Food and Think fiesta, more talk than fork.

Jerusalem, Simple and Flavour cookery book writer Yotam Ottolenghi, London restaurateur and delicatessen doyen and Middle Eastern recipe magician for the Guardian, would be in the hot seat rather than serving up hot action on the hob this evening. Unlike the comedy-infused combination of cooking and conversation in The Hairy Bikers’ live shows, for example.

Instead, legs as elongated as his Ottolenghi surname as he took to his chair, Israeli-born chef Yotam settled elegantly into answering a series of home-cooking and London-in-lockdown questions from Observer journalist and Yotam enthusiast Rachel Cooke with charm, warmth and a studious disposition, yet one flavoured with amusement and observant humour.

Hosted by Penguin Books, with signed copies of Ottolenghi Flavour to be collected in the foyer afterwards in a ticket and book deal, the Cooke and the cook show was more than a plug for that “flavour-forward, vegetable-based” book, and thankfully there was no such “flavour-forward” jargon in raconteur Ottolenghi’s responses.

He was quick to dispel the myth he was a vegetarian, or indeed vegan, for all his famed love of preserved lemons, although how he elevates fruit and vegetables is key to his cooking, along with his love of less-appreciated ingredients such as the tang of sumac.

He recalled his Jerusalem upbringing as the son of a chemistry professor and high school principal, enjoying shopping in food markets and tending to his mother’s herb garden, and later his literature studies, before heading to Europe, first Amsterdam and then London, ostensibly to study further, but the call of the kitchen took over.

Inevitably, the discussion turned to the pandemic, when everything stopped for tea and every other meal chez Ottolenghi. The downside of lockdown for Yotam was all the “terrifying” uncertainty brought on by the requirement to shut his restaurants and the decision to do likewise with his delis, but the upside was time spent in the kitchen at home, reaching, like so many, to the back of the store cupboard to feed his young sons, Max and Flynn.

He kept the dishes simple, with his children as his tasting panel. Fellow members of his Ottolenghi Test Kitchen “superteam” did likewise, and the collective results are now in print, published on September 30, as Shelf Love.

He poured out his enthusiasm for hummus as you should have it, as a meal in itself with pitta and chickpeas, rather than that magnolia of supermarket tubs. This is what his audience of pans people came for: the inside knowledge on how to improve and how to improvise dishes, how to make the most of long-neglected polenta and wholegrain rice. From back of the cupboard to back of the net.

Ottolenghi’s 75 minutes of culinary chat concluded with a Q and A, where we discovered his favourite herb and spice – coriander and cumin respectively – and we vowed to take his advice to always add freshly chopped tomatoes to the tinned variety.

Yotam and York had come together for one night, a dinner date of sorts, but you should not expect the flowering of a beautiful relationship. Ever the controlling perfectionist, he likes to be within an hour’s reach of all his restaurants, ruling out expansion beyond London, he said.

You will just have to reach for his books instead on an ever-expanding shelf.

More Things To Do in and around York as creative night market launched. List No. 49, courtesy of The Press, York

Big news! York artist Freya Horsley, right, and gallery co-director Ails McGee with Freya’s paintings Turning Tide and Liquid Light at According To McGee, York

BIG paintings, a night market, thrillers at the double, cookery chat, an anniversary celebration, a long-awaited Scottish return and a brace of comedians are the diverse focus of Charles Hutchinson’s attention.

Exhibition of the week: Freya Horsley, Contemporary Seascapes, According To McGee, York, running until October 11

ACCORDING To McGee is playing host to the biggest paintings the Tower Street gallery has ever exhibited: Liquid Light and Turning Tide, two mixed-media works on canvas by Freya Horsley.

The York artist is displaying a new series of seascape paintings depicting the Cornish, Scottish and north east coastlines.

“Her art makes you look twice because it has a calming quality and, like a good sunrise, it makes you go ‘wow!’,” says co-director Greg McGee.

York Creatives Night Market: Debut night of arts, crafts, music, food and drink at Shambles Market tomorrow

York Creatives Night Market, Shambles Market, York, tomorrow, 7pm to 10.30pm

POSTPONED at short notice on August 20, the debut York Creatives Night Market goes ahead tomorrow in a chance to browse art and products by independent traders.

Street food, drinks and music all evening are on the menu too for this free event, open to all.

The Rusty Pegs: Tenth anniversary concert at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Celebrating ten years on: The Rusty Pegs, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 8pm

TEN years ago, York country band The Rusty Pegs formed, drawn from volunteers at the Monkgate theatre, who were asked to perform their debut gig there at a Raising The Roof fundraiser.

To mark a decade of making music together, the Pegs have decided to come full circle by performing an anniversary gig in the same place where it all started, this time launching the autumn season. Box office:

No mistaking Justin Currie: Del Amitri return with Fatal Mistakes album for first York gig since 2002

Long time coming: Del Amitri, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.45pm

DEL Amitri follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a return to York Barbican after a 19-year hiatus.

Justin Currie’s Glaswegian band last played there in May 2002, the year they released their last album, Can You Do Me Good?.

“It’s been nearly 20 years since we toured with a new album, lord knows what took us so long,” says Currie. “The prospect of sprinkling our set with a few choices from Fatal Mistakes fills us with the sort of excitement that, for some men of our age, might call for light medication. We think the adrenaline will see us through.” Box office:

No smoke without ire: Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss blows his top at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week: Daniel Sloss: Hubris, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

SUNDAY’S gig is third time lucky for Scotsman Daniel Sloss, whose October 3 2020 and May 8 2021 visits were ruled out by the accursed Covid.

Sloss, 30, has sold out six New York solo off-Broadway seasons, appeared on American television’s Conan show ten times and toured to more than 50 countries. Now, at last, comes his new show, with special guest Kai Humphries.

Look out for Sloss’s book, Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die (And Other Comforting Thoughts On Family, Friends, Sex, Love, And More Things That Ruin Your Life), from October 12. For tickets for Sunday, go to:

What’s cooking? Cookbook writer Yotam Ottolenghi finds flavour at York Theatre Royal on Tuesday

Flavour of the month: Yotam Ottolenghi, A Life In Flavour, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

CHEF, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi reflects on A Life In Flavour, provides cooking inspiration and signs copies of his “flavour-forward, vegetable-based” cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour, after the show on Tuesday.

West Jerusalem-born Ottolenghi will be discussing the tastes, ingredients and flavours that excite him and how he has created a career from cooking.

Expect “unique insights into how flavour is dialled up and why it works, from basic pairings fundamental to taste, to cooking methods that elevate ingredients to great heights”. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Dane Baptiste: Comedian with a chip on his shoulder at Burning Duck Comedy Club

The other comedy gig of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Dane Baptiste: The Chocolate Chip, The Crescent, York, September 23, 7.30pm

IN his own words, Dane Baptiste is now a “grown ass black man, too old to be concerned with chicken or trainers, too young to be considered a peer of Trevor McDonald”.

Has he got a chip on his shoulder? “Yes. A chocolate one,” says Baptiste, a south east London stand-up who once worked in media sales.

Noted for his boldly provocative material, he hosts the podcasts Dane Baptiste Questions Everything and Quotas Full. Box office:

The Rowntree Players’ poster for next week’s production of Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web

Web of the week: Rowntree Players in Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, September 23 to 25, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

DIPLOMAT’S wife Clarissa is adept at spinning tales of adventure, but when a murder takes place in her drawing room, she finds live drama much harder to cope with in Rowntree Players’ autumn return, directed by Howard Ella.

Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband arrives with an important politician, she enlists the help of her guests. 

In a conscious parody of the detective thriller, Christie’s Spider’s Web delivers suspense and humour in equal measure in an intricate plot of murder, police detection, hidden doorways and secret drawers. Box office: 01904 501935 or at

In the chair: Just Some Theatre in rehearsal for The Killer Question, heading to Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Mystery of the week ahead: Just Some Theatre in The Killer Question, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, September 25, 7.30pm

THE Silence Of The Lambs meets Last Of The Summer Wine in Dave Payne’s dark comedy thriller The Killer Question, marking the York debut of Manchester company Just Some Theatre.

Did The Chair game show champion Walter Crump’s obsession with death ultimately lead to his own? Inspector Black believes so, and now Crump’s dopey widow, Margaret, finds herself accused of her husband’s murder. 

Faced by more than one deadly twist in the tale, can Inspector Black solve the mystery? Will Margaret be home in time for Countryfile? Just as important, which actor – Peter Stone, Jake Urry or Jordan Moore – will play which character? The audience decides. Box office:

Cookery writer Yotam Ottolenghi to be flavour of the month at York Theatre Royal

Yotam Ottollenghi: letting the flavour flood out in his new book and York talk

CHEF, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi will reflect on A Life In Flavour and provide cooking inspiration at York Theatre Royal on September 17. 

Ottolenghi, who is of Italian-Jewish and German-Jewish descent, will discuss the tastes, ingredients and flavours that excite him and how he has created a career from cooking.

In the 7.30pm event, coinciding with the publication of his latest cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour, he will “offer unique insights into how flavour is dialled up and why it works, from basic pairings fundamental to taste, to cooking methods that elevate ingredients to great heights”. 

Under discussion too will be his life and career, from how his upbringing – he was born to a chemistry professor and high-school principal in West Jerusalem – has influenced his food, to opening six delis and restaurants in London.

Yotam Ottolenghi: “flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes” in his September 3 book

Ottolenghi, 51, is chef-patron of the Ottolenghi delis, NOPI and ROVI restaurants. He writes a weekly column in the Guardian’s Feast magazine and a monthly column in The New Yorker and has published the cookbooks Plenty and Plenty More, his collection of vegetarian recipes; Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Jerusalem, co-authored with Sami Tamimi; NOPI: The Cookbook with Ramael Scully; Sweet, his baking and desserts collection with Helen Goh, and Ottolenghi Simple, his 2018 award winner book with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth. 

Ottolenghi’s appearance at York Theatre Royal will come a fortnight after Penguin Books publish his new cookbook of “flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes”, Ottolenghi Flavour, wherein he and co-writer Ixta Belfrage break down the three factors that create flavour.

Please note, there is the chance to buy a copy with your ticket (£15 and upwards) for this Penguin Live evening. Ottolenghi will conduct a book-signing session after the talk. Box office: 01904 623568 or at