The sheer vibrancy and joy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean-inspired dishes caught everyone’s imagination. In 2002 the literary agent Felicity Rubinstein found herself drawn to a white-walled deli that had just opened around the corner from her home in London’s Notting Hill. It was called Ottolenghi and its food display was a riot of colour and promise. Eating it looked like it might be a quick route to feeling good about yourself. “I became rather obsessed with it,” she says now. “I reckoned it wasn’t difficult to make this food. I just had to know what was in it.” Soon Ottolenghi opened an outpost in Islington. Sarah Lavelle, then an editor at Ebury Books, lived close by. “I went down one weekend and people were queueing out the door. I thought, ‘Something’s going on here.’” Merope Mills, then editor of the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, also visited. “I was looking for a new vegetarian cooking columnist,” she says. “And I was struck by all these brilliant-looking salads.”