Like Adele, Drake or Cher, for foodies or cookbook enthusiasts, Ottolenghi is a man who only needs a one-name introduction.
Full name: Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-English restaurateur, chef and writer can be credited with giving ingredients like sumac, za'atar and yes, even cauliflowers, pop culture relevance. An ex-journalist, he's also the author of eight cookbooks including the best-selling Plenty, Ottolenghi Simple and Ottolenghi FLAVOUR.
However, away from commercial test kitchens and ritzy equipment, his advice for eager home bakers is basic but "essential". Speaking to news.com.au ahead of the release of his upcoming documentary Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, he says the culprit of disappointing baked goods can often be traced to the temperature of the butter.
"If (the recipe calls for) cold butter than it needs to be cold. If it's room temperature, than it needs to be room temperature – and often it will make all the difference," he says. "You cannot really aerate butter so easily if it hasn't come to the right temperature and that can affect the whole cake."
He also recommends baking enthusiasts to invest in an inexpensive sugar thermometer to upgrade their at-home kit.
"A thermometer is really, really useful if you're cooking your sugar and so many things in baking involve cooking sugar," he says. "Nougats, caramels and all those things really benefit from a sugar thermometer. They're not that expensive these days and they're really, really useful."
Although Ottolenghi is most-widely known for his Middle Eastern inspired recipes, his latest project shows him in a different light. Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, a 75-minute documentary that watches like an extended episode of MasterChef (aka with just the right amount of drama and heart), brings together a team of world-class pastry chefs.
He instructs them to create a spread inspired by the excess, extravagance, pomp of the Palace of Versailles and intersperses the film with intimate glimpses into his life and historical tidbits.
It all unfolds in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and features a heady mix of awe-inspiring creations (think: a swan with moving wings and an edible sun god). There's also plenty of food-based tension like a misbehaving mousse and a Poh-esque scene where one team falls victim to malfunctioning equipment.
Reflecting on the experience he says it was the "best gig in the world".
"I get really excited. I create the challenge, I decide who's coming and what the nature of it is," he says.
"Normally I work with just one chef but because of the excess and the size of the topic, I thought why don't I bring a few pastry chefs and get their take on Versailles? One would not be enough because Versailles is all about abundance."
However, when Ottolenghi isn't deep in recipe development, finetuning dishes for his multiple delis and restaurants or championing world-class pastry chefs, he's a fan of the simple things.
Despite the ability to enjoy "every kind of cake," his favourite things to make are delicate sponge cakes ("it's something I can have every day") and desserts made from choux pastry – "I also love anything made with choux pastry like eclairs – I think it's such a wonderful creation".
"It's funny the simple things like a lemon drizzle cake can make me so happy," he says.