Yotam Ottolenghi: A Life in Flavour, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, September 21

CHEF, restaurateur, recipe writer and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi looked perfectly at ease in the hot seat on stage in York tonight as he talked about his extraordinary career - and faced questions from a packed Theatre Royal audience.

The Israeli-born chef, celebrated for revolutionising Britain's kitchens with a plethora of middle eastern ingredients such as preserved lemons, sumac, and za'atar, proved to be a charming and entertaining raconteur during his 75 minutes on stage with host Rachel Cooke, the Observer journalist.

But fans were left disappointed when Ottolenghi was asked if he would ever open a restaurant outside of London - and come north, even to York.

He said: "Over the years, we have had a lot of those conversations. Trouble is running restaurants is very hard work - and I am very controlling! The thought that I wouldn't be able to walk into my restaurant and see my chefs, well it makes me sleep not very well at night!"

Topics covered during the evening included Ottolenghi's early life in Jerusalem, his memories of shopping in the local food markets and watering his mother's fresh herbs. He came to Britain to study, but loved cooking more.

Over the past two decades he has become an international culinary superstar, running his delis and restaurants as well as writing a weekly column in The Guardian’s Feast Magazine, and a monthly column in The New Yorker. He has also published seven bestselling cookbooks, with a new one based on recipes cooked during the pandemic due out at the end of this month.

He talked about the inspiration behind this new cookbook, Shelf Love. He explained how, like everyone else, during lockdown he had to cook with what he had in his cupboard - and had to be creative when staples such as rice and pasta were in short supply.

"I used barley, polenta, whole grain rice - the book celebrates ingredients that sit in the cupboard and don't get used." So what else did we discover during our evening with the great chef?

That he serves simple foods to his two young children, we should add fresh tomatoes to any dish using tinned tomatoes to enhance the flavour, and that supermarket-bought hummus is not a patch on the real thing.

"Hummus is a meal in itself. It should be served warm, with pitta and whole chickpeas."

The audience were clearly Ottolenghi fans, with many picking up signed copies of his cookbooks after the show (he wasn't doing personal signings because of Covid, it was announced).

And if they weren't already an avid follower, they most likely left a convert - with plans to visit the supermarket asap to stock up on some of those special Ottolenghi ingredients.