Chef Einat Admony Cooks From Home – and the Heart – in Kerhonkson

Photo courtesy of Einat Admony

The chef behind New York City’s Balaboosta balances TV appearances and an acclaimed career with Hudson Valley reprieves.

Chef Einat Admony is in her element. From the center of her kitchen in Kerhonkson, she glides from one task to the next, cutting vegetables here, swirling dressing there. She knows her way around the space, knows what she needs to do and where she needs to be. She’s a chef and an artist, one who paints the picture of her past and present through the meals she puts on the table.

Watching Admony’s ease in the kitchen, it’s no wonder that she’s garnered praise – and multiple awards – as one of the top chefs in New York City. Yet unlike many of her peers, Admony stands out with her focus on authentic Israeli cuisine. It’s the food of her childhood, the food upon which she was raised, and, now, the food she serves to the lucky souls who score a table at Balaboosta, her restaurant in the West Village that tempts diners with everything from Yemenite soup dumplings and fried olives with homemade labneh to tahdig rice and brick chicken. It’s also the spot from which Admony earned her 2022 James Beard semifinalist nomination for Best Chef: New York State. (Perhaps you spotted a few other Hudson Valley chefs on the semifinalist list as well?)

food
Food at Balaboosta. Photo by Nitzan Keynan

Yet for Admony, a woman who cut her teeth in New York City’s fast-paced, relentless dining scene, there’s no place quite like her countryside home in Kerhonkson. The escape, which she and her husband and business partner Stefan Nafziger purchased in 2016, is a treasure for her and her family. Not only is it the place they escape to on weekends away from the restaurant, but it’s also where they spent much of their time during the height of the pandemic in New York.

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“We were very fortunate to have this house,” Admony observes. During the pandemic, “I got a pottery wheel, I got kitchen equipment, I did carpentry, I did pottery, [and] we built the whole garden. We have 56 vegetables in three different cycles.”

Einat Admony
Photo by Heidi Harris, courtesy of Einat Admony

For the award-winning chef with two cookbooks, Balaboosta and Shuk, to her name, that garden is an endless source of inspiration. She cites heirloom varieties as some of her favorite things to plant, with cucumber, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini on the roster for this summer. As for where she gets the seeds, many of them come straight from Hudson Valley Seed Co., which is based nearby in Accord.

Of course, placing priority on fresh, quality ingredients is nothing new for Admony, who gravitates toward powerhouse flavors like cilantro, fenugreek, and tahini in her cooking. Said cooking is nothing short of remarkable, and comes as a result of years of twists and turns that led her to become one of the most notable culinary names in New York City today. Prior to making her mark in the Big Apple, Admony was born and grew up in Israel, where she was raised on traditional Israeli and Yemenite Jewish cuisine.

kitchen
Photo courtesy of Einat Admony

“This is how we grew up,” she enthuses. “This is my family cooking. [My mom] was a working mom, but we had lunch and dinner every day and Shabbat dinner every Friday night.”

That notion of cooking for others stayed with Admony as she joined and cooked in the Israeli army and, later, as she entered New York’s fine dining scene. In 2005, she and her husband opened Taïm, a falafel eatery that has morphed into a beloved destination with locations across New York City and Washington, D.C. During the pandemic, she pulled out of the majority of Taïm’s operations, although she still remains the founder and a partner.

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Chef Einat Admony
Food at Balaboosta. Photo by Nitzan Keynan

Of course, Taïm is just one success story for the chef. Admony found her true calling in 2010 when she opened Balaboosta in New York City. Not only is the restaurant, which means “perfect housewife” in Yiddish, a return to her fine dining roots, but it also stands out as one of the only fine dining eateries in the country that spotlights Israeli cuisine. Today, the restaurant stands strong in Manhattan’s restaurant scene. As chef and partner at Balaboosta, Admony is excited to update the menu to reflect the changing seasons, since doing so lets her flex her creative muscles.

“It makes me feel relaxed with Balaboosta,” she says of having just the one restaurant under her purview. “I have lots of creativity with Balaboosta.”

Einat Admony
Photo by Heidi Harris, courtesy of Einat Admony

Admony may just have Balaboosta to focus on in terms of restaurants, but she has a full plate when it comes to her other endeavors. To start, she’s one of the featured chefs for CookUnity, a chef collective that offers gourmet meals crafted by top chefs across the nation as part of a meal delivery program. Understandably, this role is a major change from fine dining, since Admony needs to craft not just delicious meals, but also meals that travel well and reheat properly.

“I need to figure out the technicalities of mass production,” she notes of CookUnity, adding that she and her team work on about 7,000 meals a week for the program.

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Food at Balaboosta. Photo by Nitzan Keynan

And did we mention the book? To add to her current list of bylines, which include her two cookbooks, Admony is working on a memoir. To top it off, she also has a potential brand partnership in the works, along with more than a few television guest spots. At press time, Admony was scheduled to film an upcoming Beat Bobby Flay with Chef Amanda Freitag and Westchester County’s Fortina founder Christian Petroni. She also recently wrapped production on Tournament of Champions and has taken home two Chopped victories, losing only once when she competed a week after having one of her children.

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At the end of the day, however, Admony’s happy place is at home in Kerhonkson. She loves the little Hudson Valley community, citing Ollie’s Pizza, Outpost BBQ, and Damn Good Honey as a few local favorites.

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Food at Balaboosta. Photo by Nitzan Keynan

“I come upstate every weekend,” she enthuses. She has big plans for summer, the first of which is to get more chickens. Originally she had 12, but a weasel attack left only four remaining. Soon, she plans to add six to the collection to “make a nice coop,” she notes.

The chickens – and their fresh eggs – are the perfect pairing for Admony’s soon-to-be overflowing summer garden. Of course, the true pièce de résistance for her will be finally installing a pool into her backyard. Getting a pool has been a dream of hers since her youth, so she’s more than a little excited for it to become a reality. With the pool in place, she’ll be ready to host her friends – many of whom are chefs and food professionals in their own right – for summers of farm-to-table dinners in the Hudson Valley. After all, Admony loves feeding people and seeing the joy her cuisine can convey.

“You know what the greatest compliment is?” she asks. “It feels like home. It feels nurturing.”

Related: Cool Down at Three of the Hudson Valley’s Freshest Ice Cream Stands

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