“I want drama in the mouth,” Yotam Ottolenghi once proclaimed in an interview. The Jerusalem-born, London-based chef serves “drama”—think eggplant with buttermilk sauce and saffron tagliatelle—to diners at his seven cafés and restaurants around London. With seven New York Times best-selling cookbooks, he’s prompted home cooks around the world to stock their pantries with pomegranate molasses, sumac, and za’atar.
As a celebrated chef and restaurateur, Ottolenghi is often called to far-flung cities. Here, he answers our questionnaire about what he packs, eats, and buys while traveling.
What do you wear to the airport?
Something comfortable and light. Jeans, T-shirt, hoodie.
How long before your flight boards do you get to the airport?
A couple of hours, although recently more since I had a close shave before a flight to London.
Check bags, or carry-on only?
I normally check. I don’t like traveling with lots of stuff, especially going through security.
What do you bring in your carry-on?
Work I need to get through, so laptop or printouts. I am the most productive on planes.
What snacks do you buy in the airport terminal?
Sushi and sashimi normally.
What do you do while waiting to board?
Phone calls and flicking through magazines. I am not relaxed until I get on the plane.
Item you can’t fly without?
Not much, really. Recently, noise-canceling headphones and my laptop.
First class, business, or coach?
Depends who’s paying.
Window, middle, or aisle seat?
How do you pass the time on the plane?
I don’t sleep well on planes, so mostly work and TV series I want to catch up on.
Do you buy Wi-Fi?
No. I have this idea that it’s terribly slow, although I never test it.
Do you eat plane food?
I do. Surprisingly, I am not fussy. I like the ceremony. It passes the time.
Best drink to get on a flight?
Bloody (or Virgin) Mary. I only ever get it on flights. I am not sure why.
Do you talk to the people sitting next to you?
Normally I don’t.
Keep shoes on or off on the plane?
What do you do when turbulence hits?
Not much. I don’t get nervous usually, despite a terrifying story I heard from my partner about a nightmare flight he was once on.
Worst part of the flight?
Long taxiing after landing. I get so impatient at this stage.
First thing you do when the plane lands?
Worry about how I get through passport control and out of the airport.
In-flight-eating advice for travelers?
Don’t get special meals if you can help it; they always seem substandard. Fly with a mini-bottle of hot sauce or mustard.
Yotam Ottolenghi is the author of several cookbooks. His latest, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things, co-written with Noor Murad, is out now from Clarkson Potter