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Talk to the Chef - Einat Admony
Photograph: Courtesy Balaboosta

Balaboosta’s chef Einat Admony cooks like a woman and eats like a grandmother

The balaboosta of our time reflects on cooking real food and making guests feel at home

Virginia Gil
Written by
Virginia Gil

Chef Einat Admony cannot stop hosting. If she’s not working the room between kitchen breaks at her West Village Israeli restaurant, Balaboosta—whose name means “perfect wife” in Yiddish—she’s welcoming friends and family into her second home in New York’s Hudson Valley. “I don’t know if I’m the perfect balaboosta but I’m a great host; I do it very well and sometimes a little bit too much,” she admits. In fact, Admony and her husband and business partner, Stefan Nafziger, have only sat down to a handful of dinners by themselves in their country house since they bought the place six years ago. While she may not be the perfect housewife and mother, she is the balaboosta of our time, a present-day example of an intrepid woman balancing multiple roles: chef, cookbook author, business owner and parent, who still finds time to cook the latest TikTok food trend for her kids.

How would you describe your food and cooking style?

It’s simple but sophisticated. I put a lot of soul and emotion into my food—I don’t just throw dishes together. I also think my food is very craveable, even for people of a different culture than mine. They feel at home and comforted when they eat it, which is something I love to hear.

What kind of experience do you hope for guests when they dine at Balaboosta?

I want people to want to come back. Sam Sifton said it best in his review for the NY Times: “She runs Balaboosta exactly as if she’d invited a room full of strangers for dinner, then told her family to be nice to them.” We have staff who have been here for years and understand how we move. We’re not a pretentious place. We’re here for the customer and not for my ego, which is something I figured out fast. If the customer wants a substitution, we’ll take care of it. We want people to feel comfortable and come eat our food again and again.

Do you have certain guiding principles behind your cooking that you return to often?

Many. Mostly, I cook like a woman. I am not the most feminine woman but I do cook like a woman in that my kitchen doesn’t have much butter or heavy creams. That’s not my style; I want balance. It also has to do with age: I crave more balance in my meals. I don’t want to eat a heavy steak with french fries or creamy mashed potatoes (that’s what my husband likes!). I grew up in the Mediterranean and we eat light with lots of veggies. We’ll have a protein like meat or chicken with greens and vegetables.

In what other ways did your upbringing inform your cooking style and diet?

I grew up with a lot of superfoods—pomegranate, chia seeds, goji berries and flax seeds were all part of my childhood. My mom sprouted everything to make bread and desserts. Flax seeds were and are always in home, as are tahini, dates and lots of nuts.

How does this experience translate into how you approach the menu at Balaboosta?

I create a lot of vegetable dishes, vegetarian salads and dishes with an option for vegans. I can lock in everyone with dietary restrictions with a vegan option that’s also gluten-free and doesn’t have to be pasta, which is easier to do.

Is there a current culinary trend you're especially excited about?

I don’t follow trends, but I am always progressing, innovating and finding new ways to stay relevant. The only trendy foods I follow are the ones my kids ask me to make for them from TikToks they’ve seen. They’re 14 and 17 years old—sometimes it’s cool but most of the time I do it for my kids.

What’s always in your fridge or pantry at home?

Yogurt—always. I also keep preserved lemons in my pantry. We were upstate recently and ran out of salt while making burgers, so we used the juice from the preserved lemons to salt.

What dishes would you recommend to someone new to Israeli food?

I would tell them to start with the Yemonite soup dumplings because they reflect the flavors I grew up eating and the food I’ve experienced in my travels. It’s basically a traditional Chinese soup dumpling I make with a delicious Yemenite soup, which we ate every Friday night in my parents’ house. My kids are obsessed with them.

Do you have a favorite piece of kitchen equipment?

I have a lot of equipment, so it’s hard to choose but I would say the All-Clad cordless immersion blender we just got for our house. It’s cordless so that you can take it anywhere, and it looks cool—you can put it out on display. We make sauces and dressings with it.

You do so much! How do you find the time to be a balaboosta? What does being the perfect housewife look like to you?

I'm not a perfect housewife because I’m a career woman, but maybe I am the perfect housewife for this century. You’ll always feel guilty when you’re raising kids and you’re nonstop with your work, but I’ve found balance. I have boundaries and my family always comes first, no matter what. I think it’s important for my kids to see that their mom has another identity besides being their mom. They’re proud of me.

What seasonal food are you excited about cooking the most this fall?

I grew a ton of sunchoke in my garden and will research whether I can make the sunchoke flower too. I have all kinds of squash, romanesco and brussels sprouts I plan to use.

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