Chef spotlight: LGBT+ History Month - Yotam Ottolenghi

The Chef of the Millenials. Why do we love him so much?

Jake Watson
15th February 2022
Yotam Ottolenghi/ Image: Instagram (@ottolenghi)
What is it that we all love so much about Ottolenghi? He’s the chef of a generation. A paragon of the millennials. He represents a new twenty-year-old – one that has an interest in fine food, is eager to discover new flavours and, well, he uses hummus a lot. If there’s one thing we know about millennials (and Gen Zs – speaking as one myself), it’s that we love a bit of hummus. I like to think of it as our twenty-first century chicken or the egg question, what came first, the hummus or the Ottolenghi?

Of course, I’m being absurd. Hummus has been eaten in Egypt and the Levant for centuries. The earliest known written recipes for a dish resembling hummus bi tahina are recorded in cookbooks written in Cairo in the 13th century, but my point still stands. Middle eastern food has been around in Britain for a long while now, but few have done so much to bring it to the attention of the many as Yotam Ottolenghi has.

I chose to write about Ottolenghi for LGBT+ history month as, quite frankly, he was the first gay chef that sprang to mind - and I think that says something in itself. Yotam's willingness to discuss his sexuality and the troubles that come with it make him a gay culinary icon. In the last 15 years, he has become a household name and his openness to discussing his own sexuality is a vital contribution to breaking down negative stereotypes and beliefs around sexuality, particularly in the food industry which is dominated by heterosexual cisgender men. In 2013, Ottolenghi wrote an article for The Guardian titled 'Why I'm coming out as a gay father'. This was a seminal piece of work in the discussion around gay parenthood where he details the lengthy process of conceiving his son, Max, via gestational surrogacy, an option that he believes should be more widely available to those who cannot conceive naturally. He writes:

At the end of a five-year process, I know we can't be shy about telling our story, that privacy just isn't an option. That's because we could only have had Max, and hopefully also a future sibling, thanks to other people who have shared their stories – even if that happens to be on cheesy talkshows. Max has already brought us immense joy. He has also forced our second coming out, this time as gay parents.

Not only has Ottolenghi become a hugely celebrated chef, but he is a mouthpiece for gay parents far and wide. If you don't know of him already, get to know, because he makes some pretty good food too.

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AUTHOR: Jake Watson
3rd year French and English Literature student at Newcastle University, with an interest in all things Arts, Culture & Food. Fran Leibowitz wannabe. @JMichaelWatson on Twitter.

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