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How this Israeli woman built success in male-dominated chef industry

A trailblazing New York chef details her accomplishments in the cutthroat restaurant industry.
Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 02, 2023

Einat Admony does not mess around.

"In the military, we used to say, 'What's not kill you, make you stronger, but what does kill you, may make your mama stronger,'" Admony said.

The Israeli restaurateur has spent her life in the trenches — both in the military and in the kitchen.

Her service in the Israel Defense force as a driver and a cook gave her the thick skin she needed when she dove headfirst into the competitive, cutthroat restaurant industry in New York.

"We're very straightforward," Admony said. "I always was very pushy. I always say what I have to say. I never broke because someone didn't treat me nice or throw a pen at me. I was moving on. It just makes me stronger."

Nearly 25 years ago, there weren't many women by her side at work.

"I know I was the only woman ever been on a line on the grill, and many restaurants, I was the only woman in the kitchen," she said.

Chef after chef didn't look at her resume deeply or ask about her previous experience. They'd hire her but would put her on an "easier" station. She said she wouldn't be offended, but would take it as a challenge.

"I'm learning something else that some guys with ego don't want to learn because they think they're above that, so for me it's like I learned another station," Admony said.

Admony would come in on her day off to learn specialties, from butchery to pastries. Soon enough, she was where she wanted to be.

After years in fine dining, Admony opened up the now popular New York fast-casual falafel shop, Taiim. Chipotle invested, she sold it, then she opened a dozen more restaurants before settling in on Balaboosta, proving a woman's place can be in a kitchen that she created.

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The Israeli restaurant features a wall honoring her mother who herself, Admony says, is a Balaboosta. 

"Balaboosta is a perfect housewife," Admony said. "She's the lead of the whole house. She's the one that's doing the decisions, is the one that is bonding all the family together. She's the one that is generous and kind and cooking very well and knows how to give the best advice. She's a rock star."

She's had to figure out how to hold those qualities even in difficult times; owning an Israeli restaurant in America hasn't come without hate.

"We have somebody on the table called swastika, we have notes on outside of the door that people wrote stuff," Admony said. "I can't change people, you know, like, hate will exist unfortunately always."

She's also refined what a Balaboosta means for her: balancing her family and motherhood with a thriving career.

She's not alone in this, but at her level, there are fewer women to look to for advice. Only 20% of head chefs are women in the U.S. That number only grew 3% over the last decade.

For Admony, the evolution is endless. She's been a James Beard semifinalist, written multiple cookbooks and appeared on TV shows, including against former boss Bobby Flay.

"You just need to know how to have boundaries," Admony said.

She says she'll continue to reinvent herself, finding things that keep her from getting bored.

"I always try to keep myself busy and creating more and more and more work and project and things that I feel like, I don't know, fill my soul and make me happy," Admony said.

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White House event celebrating Women's History Month

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A week-long national celebration of women started in 1982. It was extended to a month-long event five years later.