Greatness Starts With a Double Espresso on Ice
We all have our game-time rituals. Here's how Otium's Tim Hollingsworth gets his head right and sinks into the cooking space.
October 4, 2018 ● 2 min read
By Cassandra Landry | Illustration by Daniel Krall
This article brought to you in partnership with Pacific Sales.
When Timothy Hollingsworth was 18 years old, he decided to get a job as a dishwasher in a small, country French restaurant in Northern California.
It was a tight-knit kind of place, as most small spots usually are. The chef was from the south of France, but had a resume that stretched all over the world. His wife was the pastry chef and ran the front of the house; their two kids lived right behind the restaurant. Even the servers had been there for years. Hollingsworth fit neatly into their little family, and proceeded to dig into his strange new world with the gusto of the freshly-initiated.
“I started reading, and reading, and reading. I'd wake up in the morning and I'd read, and I'd go to bed at night and I'd read,” he recalls. “When I'd sit in the bar at the end of the night and wait for us to all have a family meal together after the last table had left, I'd be reading. I just fell in love with it all.”
After a year or two, he flew himself to New York to spend a week at the Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus. It was his first time on an airplane. School, he would eventually decide, was not for him—but restaurants most definitely were.
“I don't know if really dreamed of owning my own restaurant. I don't really think I could wrap my head around having my own restaurant or what that even meant. It was more about being successful, being a chef. But I made a commitment to myself,” he says. “Number one, work for the best. Number two: surround myself with people who are better than me.”
It wouldn’t take long for that credo to come into play. Coming up in a French-speaking kitchen and a general proximity to Yountville soon landed him at the West Coast crown jewel of the Thomas Keller universe: The French Laundry. He competed in the prestigious Bocuse D’Or, and toured European kitchens, all of it a tuning fork to his tireless work ethic.
In 2015, Hollingsworth opened Otium in Los Angeles, his first solo venture. Inside the restaurant, wood smoke perfumes the air, the rustic backbone to a menu that mirrors its chefs wandering curiosity. Middle Eastern flavors mingle with the Mediterranean; seafood takes cues from South America to Japan. The technique presented in each dish—the cuts, the seasoning, the plating—are so flawless you forget to notice.
“If I cook something for somebody and they like it, I'm immediately gratified. The high you get when you work on the line, you go into this state of mind and notice yourself thinking ten steps ahead. It's almost like a superhuman power. It's crazy. Those were the real reasons that I wanted to do it.
“Now, it's about the creative process around the whole restaurant. Not just a menu, not just cooking, not just a dish,” he continues. “The idea of creating jobs for people, mentoring the next generation, thinking about how Instagram plays such a huge deal in running a business, looking at the financial aspects of it and that whole game—that’s fun. When I cook now it's more therapeutic than anything else.”
See how Hollingsworth gets in the zone, at home or on the line, below: