Chef Einat Admony Chef Einat Admony The chef at one of her New York restaurants. (Photo: Ania Gruca)

Chef brings New Yorkers a taste of the Mediterranean

With three restaurants and a cookbook, Einat Admony is happy to be 'feeding people nonstop.'

When Einat Admony dropped out of college, she spent the next four years cooking her way through Europe, adding to the culinary knowledge she had acquired in her mother’s kitchen. By age 24, she had realized that cooking was her future. "It was a very natural choice for me because I knew I would never be bored," she said. "I have always liked to feed people and am still today feeding people nonstop.”

Today, Admony is the chef and owner – with her husband Stefan Nafziger – of three successful downtown New York restaurants, Taïm, Balaboosta and the newest, Bar Bolonat.

Once she got serious about cooking, Admony took a 10-month culinary course in her native Israel, which she said gave her the confidence to continue in the field. She got a job at a restaurant in Israel called Karen, under chef Haim Cohen. Two years later, she arrived in New York with a plan to stay for three months, learn all she could, and go back to Israel. "Instead, I got a job right away at Bobby Flay’s Bolo and ended up working in the city for the next three and a half years," she said.

With experience in several well-known kitchens under her apron, Admony opened her first eatery, falafel shop Taïm - “delicious” in Hebrew - in 2005. “It all started when a friend with a café in the West Village mentioned that the place next door was vacant," she said. "I had been thinking of doing a high end, quick-service Israeli street food concept for a while before that and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I hadn’t found any amazing falafel in New York and that’s what I wanted to do, so we jumped at the chance.”

FalafelTaim's signature falafel dish. (Publicity photo)

The opportunity was not without difficulty, however. “There were a lot of challenges opening the restaurant: working with my husband; moving from being a chef to an owner and the different state of mind that comes with that; making no money for a year; having to take out loans from friends and family to pay our employees; having a baby at the same time while still broke and still working nonstop. It was a lot,” she recalled.

Admony’s next venture, in 2011, was Balaboosta (Yiddish for “perfect homemaker”). “The idea behind Balaboosta was to create an unpretentious place that’s cozy and welcoming, where the food is simple and delicious. I mainly wanted the cuisine to be Mediterranean just so I didn’t lock myself into only Middle Eastern dishes. Israeli foods are on the menu, but there’s a lot of freedom in being able to do pasta and French food and Spanish food and I wanted to keep things open,” she said, noting that the couscous her Moroccan neighbor taught her to make as a child is on the menu. “I also wanted very much to create a kitchen were the energy is positive. There’s still stress, obviously, but it’s also quite fun.”

The restaurant inspired Admony’s first book, “Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love,” featuring 140 of her favorite recipes for dinner parties, quick meals, barbecues, romantic dinners, healthy options, comfort food, and kids’ meals. There are a dozen Israeli recipes, from falafel to baklava.

Her newest place, Bar Bolonat (Hebrew for “to the point,” or “on target”), is wholly dedicated to Israeli cuisine, “the flavors that I love and am very comfortable with.” Public response “has been amazing,” she says. “There are plenty of Israeli customers, but a lot of other guests as well. It’s a good mix.”

The mother of two young children - Mika, 5, and Liam, 7 - Admony cooks and bakes with them often. “They really like to be involved in the kitchen and it makes it much easier to feed them afterwards. But what I really should do is train them how to do the dishes. That would be much more helpful to me,” Admony admitted.

She's also teaching them the importance of charity. “We regularly contribute food and dinners at our restaurants to various Israeli organizations."

Malabi dessertMalabi is a popular dessert at Balaboosta. (Publicity photo)

Admony has taken her children to Israel many times, “so when they visit they feel like they are Israeli. I want them to know that this is where mommy comes from and that this is a wonderful place with lots of history."

She added: “I’m very proud of Israeli cuisine and all the great food the country has. There is also strength of family and friendship values that I haven’t quite found anywhere else.”

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