How I Met Yotam Ottolenghi

Okay, before you get too excited and jealous, I really didn’t meet Yotam. But I thought I did. For about 30 seconds.

My husband and I were visiting my London-living daughter last month, and because her time there is coming to an end, I knew we had to go to an Ottolenghi restaurant. So I made lunch reservations at Nopi, in Soho.

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As we’re being led to our table, I see him. A handsome, Israeli-looking man. With glasses. He’s tall, and handsome. Did I mention that?

Since I’m such a geeky, chef stalker fan, I immediately shake his hand and tell him it’s nice to meet him. So dumb.

By the time this picture is taken, we all know the truth, and he’s cracking jokes about selling us his signature. Thankfully, this restaurant manager had a great sense of humor.

But there is a similarity, isn’t there? (not really) Of course, Mr. Ottolenghi is somewhat older, with some greying, but I was just too quick, because I have coincidentally met chefs at their restaurants before, so it could happen again, right?

Throughout lunch, the real Mr. Ottolenghi was staring at me from his book cover behind my husband’s head. Taunting me.

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If you’re wondering about the layout, we sat in the basement at one of the two communal dining tables. Thankfully, it was very cool in the room; London was a piercing 85 degrees outside that day in July.

Here’s the other table:

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In any case, I wanted to write about Nopi, because it was a vibrant foodie experience. I’m probably the only food blogger who doesn’t own Jerusalem, but I’ll have to buy it after this experience. The only way our lunch could have been better is if the real Yotam had been there… chatting with me.

The menu was very exciting. I don’t know if you can read it, but you can check out Ottolenghi.co/UK for more information on his restaurants and updated menus.

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There were four of us for lunch. My daughter, left, brought her lovely Yorkshire-bred friend and co-worker along. It was like lunching with Julie Andrews. (Obviously, my linguistic skills equal my face recognition skills.)

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We each began with a starter. Mine involved scallops and pork belly, a polenta chip, with an apple-yuzu sauce. Fabulous, needless to say.

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The young ladies got passion fruit juice, although they later switched to wine. I love lunches in London.

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We were served some complimentary veggies, in a delicious carrot sauce. I could have simply eaten these vegetables for lunch, they were so perfectly prepared and vibrant. Except for the beets, which were rock hard.

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For our main meal, we all picked lovely plates, including the popular courgettes and manouri fritters. Incredible. I opted for a couple of Aperol spritzers, to cool myself down, of course. But not at the same time.

A lovely lunch indeed, in spite of the absence of Mr. Ottonlenghi. The look-alike manager said that this has happened before, but I still think that the kitchen staff had gotten quite a big kick out of the mis-identification on my part. They were quite accommodating to let me take their photo!

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Nopi was everything I hoped it would be. If you’re in London, stop by for lunch or dinner. You won’t regret it.

By Published On: April 11th, 202074 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

74 Comments

  1. A Famished Foodie August 5, 2014 at 8:05 AM - Reply

    Thank God you put your disclaimer as your first sentence, haha, I got super excited. And, that restaurant manager is very attractive… The food looks incredible, I really love what Ottolenghi does and I can’t wait until his next book comes out.

    • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 10:42 AM - Reply

      It was a fabulous experience, in spite of not actually meeting Yotam. We’re on a first name basis, obviously! He’s doing a cookbook on Nopi – is that his next cookbook you’re talking about?

      • A Famished Foodie August 5, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        Yup! I had heard about the Nopi cookbook a few months ago and am looking forward to it. It’s supposed to be a bit different from his other three books, which should be interesting.

      • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        I just looked at Amazon, and there’s also a Plenty More. A busy man, he is!!!

  2. thesinglegourmetandtraveller August 5, 2014 at 8:09 AM - Reply

    What a wonderful lunch and so nice to see the photos of your family as well as the food. Your daughter is beautiful! I’ve only been to the original Ottolenghi in Islington and that was ages ago … I really must go to one again soon!

    • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 10:41 AM - Reply

      You should try Nopi if you can. I would go every day if I could…

  3. Susan Lightfoot Moran August 5, 2014 at 9:25 AM - Reply

    I think Jerusalem is the best cookbook I’ve ever owned, and I am so jealous of your visit to Nopi!

    • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 10:40 AM - Reply

      I would go to Nopi every day if I lived in London!!!

  4. apuginthekitchen August 5, 2014 at 9:26 AM - Reply

    What fun, love the photo’s the food looks and sounds incredible and really love the photo with the Ottolenghi look alike (not really) but it had to be fun to get the photo and have a laugh.

  5. DellaCucinaPovera August 5, 2014 at 10:32 AM - Reply

    You totally had me RUSHING from my email to your page when I read the subject. And you totes met him! Pictures, so it’s real!! Pretty jealous over here. Amaziiingg!!

    • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 11:16 AM - Reply

      Hahahaha! It really wasn’t him… sadly.

  6. chefjulianna August 5, 2014 at 12:38 PM - Reply

    What a hoot! The restaurant should hire that guy just to hang around and sign books and chat with Ottolenghi fans! Well, I am so jealous that you got to eat in the restaurant! I own Plenty and Jerusalem and was just told that Plenty More is coming soon. I love, love, love his recipes! Can’t stop cooking from those books! :D

    • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 12:39 PM - Reply

      It made me feel better that I’m not the only one who’s thought that manager was Y O ! There’s also a Nopi cookbook coming out some day – I’m definitely getting that one, too!!!

      • chefjulianna August 6, 2014 at 11:20 PM

        Wow, thanks for the heads-up about the cookbook. I’ll keep my ears to the ground.

  7. StefanGourmet August 5, 2014 at 2:34 PM - Reply

    Nice story and lovely meal. Interesting that you mention that meeting chefs at their restaurants is a special occasion. In my experience, chefs that own multiple restaurants and/or are rarely in their kitchens are past their prime (or more interested in making money than in preparing the best possible food for their guests, which is understandable but a way of allowing a kitchen to slide past its prime). There are exceptions of course!

    • chef mimi August 5, 2014 at 3:40 PM - Reply

      Agreed. One of my favorite restaurants in Dallas, with no famous chef, I’ve been going to since 1979. We still go whenever we’re in Dallas, and the owner is always there. Always. Monday or Saturday, it doesn’t matter. I’m positive that it’s what keeps the restaurant at high standards, because it’s always a perfect dining experience. Certainly a chef’s presence would do the same, or else how can he/she maintain high quality standards?

  8. sallybr August 5, 2014 at 4:50 PM - Reply

    So true about chefs that are simply never there!

    you know, I can see myself doing the exact same thing, except that I would probably go to the extent of hugging him, giving him three kisses as Brazilians do, and therefore embarrassing myself beyond recovery ;-)

  9. richardmcgary August 5, 2014 at 9:05 PM - Reply

    Too funny. :D Glad you had a great time and a good chukle to remember.

  10. ladyredspecs August 5, 2014 at 11:16 PM - Reply

    Looks like a wonderful lunch Mimi, and something to laugh about for years to come. Now that’s good value!

    • chef mimi August 6, 2014 at 6:51 AM - Reply

      I know. My daughter’s friend probably thought I was a bit on the crazy side…

  11. Abbe Odenwalder August 5, 2014 at 11:43 PM - Reply

    What fun! I’m not sure many famous chefs even cook any more. They seem to be writing books or starring in tv shows! But lucky you. This looks so good. And I will tell you that Jerusalem is a great book. Just sayin’!

    • chef mimi August 6, 2014 at 6:51 AM - Reply

      Yeah, I finally ordered it. And now he’s got two more cookbooks coming out… Obviously a very prolific writer!!!

  12. Elaine @ foodbod August 6, 2014 at 1:47 AM - Reply

    How funny!!! Sounds like you had a great time though :) Impossible not to really!!

  13. saucygander August 6, 2014 at 3:47 AM - Reply

    This brings back memories of a fabulous lunch at Nopi. We didn’t see the look alike Ottolenghi though!

    • chef mimi August 6, 2014 at 6:50 AM - Reply

      It’s a fabulous dining venue, isn’t it?!!!

      • saucygander August 6, 2014 at 5:43 PM

        Yes! If only it is closer than a 22 hour flight from Sydney!!

  14. greenandginger August 6, 2014 at 1:57 PM - Reply

    I got so excited (read: ridiculously jealous) when I read your headline! I’ve never made it to any of his restaurants, but your review makes me think I need to make reservations pronto! I generally find his recipes a bit fussy, though. I mean really, I can’t make a SNACK that involves 24 separate ingredients. What do you think?

    • chef mimi August 6, 2014 at 3:13 PM - Reply

      That definitely sounds fussy. But if the food is served to you, that’s a different story altogether! I ordered Jerusalem, so I’ll see how involved his recipes are. But what a fabulous restaurant experience!

  15. Mary Frances August 6, 2014 at 3:20 PM - Reply

    This is too funny! I have the opposite problem- when I see a famous person, I just assume it’s just someone that looks kinda like that celebrity (until I notice other people are pointing or whispering or pulling their phones out). Looks like an amazing restaurant!

    • chef mimi August 6, 2014 at 4:46 PM - Reply

      Hahahaha! That’s funny. Well I definitely used to be better about recognizing people. It must be age…

  16. theclevercarrot August 9, 2014 at 6:44 PM - Reply

    I’m dying… what a FABULOUS story. I’m an Ottolenghi groupie myself, and I literally wanted to jump into the screen and sit with you guys! Tell your daughter to stay… London is next on my places to visit. Such a lovely city! :)

    • chef mimi August 10, 2014 at 9:12 AM - Reply

      It was really funny – a little embarrassing on my part… Do visit London. It’s a fabulous city. Wish my daughter could stay longer, but 4 years has been a good run!

  17. benvenutocellini August 10, 2014 at 5:38 PM - Reply

    Hello my dear Mimi….Ottolenghi inspired me quite a lot during the time….:) Here’s the proof: http://benvenutocellini.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/fragrant-words-burning-red/

    just in case you will ever come to Rome: I would love to meet you!
    Thank you for sharing, Luana

  18. Kristi Kaiser August 11, 2014 at 8:42 AM - Reply

    Great pictures & thanks for sharing the story! Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen

    • chef mimi August 11, 2014 at 9:15 AM - Reply

      You are so welcome!!! Wish it had really been him… like he would have talked to me at all…..

  19. Judy Bradford August 13, 2014 at 4:47 PM - Reply

    Love reading your blogs and your travels….your daughter is beautiful and your husband looks happy too!

    • chef mimi August 13, 2014 at 6:18 PM - Reply

      Thank you so much! That’s very sweet!

  20. jenniferguerrero1 October 18, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Reply

    I love your sense of humor!!! Thanks for the tour of Nopi! And nice to meet your family! :D

    • chef mimi October 18, 2018 at 7:02 PM - Reply

      Just one daughter, but you are welcome! What an idiot I am! Fabulous restaurant, tho. Thanks for reading!

    • chef mimi October 18, 2018 at 7:13 PM - Reply

      I just bought Simple and Tuesday nights. Thanks a lot! I really need more cookbooks!!!!! (Seriously tho, i can’t wait!)

      • jenniferguerrero1 October 18, 2018 at 11:11 PM

        You’ll be happy! Those are two of the best of the year!

  21. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen April 11, 2020 at 7:53 AM - Reply

    What a great story! It was certainly worth repeating!

    • chef mimi April 11, 2020 at 7:55 AM - Reply

      Aww, thank you. I’m such a dodo! But what a wonderful restaurant experience!

      • Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen April 11, 2020 at 8:10 AM

        You would have felt more like a dodo if it HAD been him and you didn’t recognize him…

      • chef mimi April 11, 2020 at 8:12 AM

        Ha!!! At least it wasn’t the first time someone mistook the restaurant manager for the MAN himself. That made me feel better!

  22. David Scott Allen April 11, 2020 at 8:37 AM - Reply

    So glad you reposted this! What fun that you were there – I have really been wanting to dine in one of his restaurants. And, I would have thought that gentleman was Ottolenghi, too!

    • chef mimi April 11, 2020 at 8:38 AM - Reply

      Even though side by side they really don’t look anything alike?!!! I was giddy!!!

  23. Gloria April 11, 2020 at 11:17 PM - Reply

    Great pictures !.thanks by sharing with us Mimi !

    • chef mimi April 12, 2020 at 5:35 PM - Reply

      Thank you Gloria!

  24. sherry April 12, 2020 at 1:14 AM - Reply

    looks like you had a most marvellous time there! and how funny, mixing him up with the maitre d’. i went to a book launch last year (one of my stories was published in an anthology), and swore to hubby that i saw (and sat next to) Ben Quilty who is a famous aussie painter. Hubby still says no, but i know he is wrong:-)

    • chef mimi April 12, 2020 at 9:03 AM - Reply

      My husband is usually the one who swears he’s seen someone famous, and he’s never right!!! this was a first for me 😬 Congratulations on your publication!!!

  25. Liz @ spades, spatulas, and spoons April 12, 2020 at 3:16 PM - Reply

    What fun, thank you for reposting. I hope to get to one of their restaurants some day. Your post reminds me to appreciate every experience.

    • chef mimi April 12, 2020 at 5:35 PM - Reply

      Thank you. You must get to an Ottolenghi restaurant one day!

  26. Ron April 13, 2020 at 8:37 AM - Reply

    Thanks for the re-post, we all need a smile these days.

    • chef mimi April 13, 2020 at 9:13 AM - Reply

      You are so welcome! Hope you had a good Easter!

  27. eliotthecat April 14, 2020 at 7:34 AM - Reply

    Ha. That’s great you reposted this!!!! Since I’ve been going through all my cookbooks, I cannot find my copy of Plenty. I am still searching!

    • chef mimi April 14, 2020 at 7:35 AM - Reply

      Oh no! Gosh, that would be a good thing to do. Thanks for the idea!

  28. 2pots2cook April 15, 2020 at 8:26 AM - Reply

    Perfect you re posted this one. Not proud to say so, but I did not follow you then and am so happy to write how you made me laugh and I thank you for that . As soon as we’ll be uncaged to go freely around, London is must go for us. Will go there to look for the manager ha ha ha … and some food :-) :-)

    • chef mimi April 15, 2020 at 10:32 AM - Reply

      They’re both worth it! The manager was used to people thinking he was Yotam, aparently, which made me feel a little less silly! It’s a fabulous restaurant!

  29. Jeff the Chef April 18, 2020 at 9:31 AM - Reply

    I’m sure you made that mistaken-identity-man’s day. And you had a lovely meal!

    • chef mimi April 18, 2020 at 10:39 AM - Reply

      Oddly enough, it wasn’t the first time it had happened to him!

  30. FrugalHausfrau April 18, 2020 at 5:29 PM - Reply

    So funny!! It sounds like you had an amazing time and what a great memory to pull from with everything going on these days.

    • chef mimi April 18, 2020 at 5:32 PM - Reply

      Ha! I’m so glad we went. It was all so worth it!

  31. sippitysup April 19, 2020 at 10:14 AM - Reply

    I did almost the same thing with James Brolin. Well actually just the opposite. I was chatting with him at a party (18 years ago!) and without having exchanged names I said to him, “you look a lot like James Brolin”.

    “That’s good, because I am James Brolin” he said wryly. GREG

    • chef mimi April 19, 2020 at 10:27 AM - Reply

      Hysterical!

  32. Laura April 21, 2020 at 4:26 PM - Reply

    I love this story, Mimi! That menu is positively exquisite, too! I imagine the food was so amazing!

    • chef mimi May 12, 2020 at 10:06 AM - Reply

      The food was incredible. I’m so glad we went.

  33. Kim Bultman April 22, 2020 at 11:10 AM - Reply

    Chef Mimi, what an enjoyable post. Thank you! Yes, we all need a good laugh these days. I too have experienced the pleasure of seared scallops & pork belly (at Phryme Steakhouse in downtown Tulsa awhile back), served atop a smoked carrot puree’. Exquisite! Wonder if they got that idea from Yotam? Anyway, it was lovely — as were your London dinner memories and chance “sighting.” Be safe and well, my friend, xo.

    • chef mimi April 22, 2020 at 11:22 AM - Reply

      Oh, I’ve been there! My kids (daughter #1 and husband) used to live across the street from the restaurant. You be safe as well. Crazy times.

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