A new chef at the Comedy Cellar’s Olive Tree Cafe – Advice Eating

Chef Einat Admony takes the stage at Comedy Cellar this week.
Photo: Clark Hodgin

“I own a restaurant called Balaboosta, which is Yiddish for a woman who can cook for 20 guests, keep her kids in line, and give your husband a great blowjob afterwards,” Einat Admony begins, pausing before hitting the punch line: “Two out of three isn’t bad, is it?” That’s her favorite joke, of course, but until a few years ago her sense of Humor something mostly only known to friends. Then one day the chef decided to see if her jokes would work — or bomb — on stage.

“It was 2018 and I wanted to take a course that had nothing to do with cooking, restaurants, my kids, my husband, or anything familiar,” recalls Admony. “I was torn between pottery and comedy.” She responded to the jokes by taking a class at the Village’s Comedy Cellar. “It was something I knew I wanted to try. For years, whenever I had friends from out of town, I would take them there.”

Admony at the Olive Tree Cafe, where she revamped the menu.
Photo: Clark Hodgin

In the tiny, brick-walled, underground club, Admony honed her set and learned how to crack jokes about food, the restaurant industry and her family, particularly her 15-year-old son, who is also a budding comedian, who gives her “material” up to tomorrow.” What she discovered was that she had a freedom on stage that didn’t exist anywhere else. “As an Israeli, I get a lot of hate comments on social media,” she says. “Being on stage gives me an inspiration bit more opportunity to speak my mind.”

The Comedy Cellar’s owner, Noam Dworman, is also Israeli, and his late father, Manny, founded both the club and the attached restaurant, the Olive Tree Cafe, which is probably most famous for its “Comedian’s Table,” a permanent sacred place for comics reserved that perform at the club. Even if the place is famous, the food at the Olive Tree Cafe is less so — Jerry Seinfeld once joked that watching a dying friend cough up “an awful thing” got him in the mood for the restaurant’s hummus — and though it is referred to as Middle Oriental restaurant whose dishes include truffle fries and chicken wings.

When a mutual friend mentioned to Dworman that Admony was taking stand-up classes, he reached out to her to see if she might want to help out in the kitchen. Tonight she’ll be launching her new menu at the Olive Tree, where, yes, she’s upped the ante on the hummus. “I’m very happy about that,” she says. Admony has also installed her signature falafel — the same recipe she debuted at Taïm in 2005 — and introduced some vegetarian options like roasted broccoli with red tahini and crispy cauliflower with raisins and pine nuts.

Very good hummus, available now.
Photo: Clark Hodgin

Change isn’t taken lightly at this restaurant: it was real news when Dworman had to move the comedians’ table a few feet to refurbish the kitchen, so much so that he refurbished again to put the table back. And some staples like nachos and chicken wings will stay. “I tried to take some things off the menu and they said, ‘No, this has been on the menu for years!’ or ‘No, this comedian likes this dish!’ I’d say, ‘Who cares?’” Admony jokes. “We laugh about it, but I think it’s important that they put the comedians first. I understand that.”

Admony wants to offer something for everyone and she will craft dishes like jokes. Whether it’s food or humor, it’s important to know your audience. “There’s a joke I make about chefs,” says Admony. “I say, ‘Cooks are very arrogant, egomaniacs, idiots. Not me. But if you haven’t heard from me, you’re probably deaf.” My friends who know me know I’m arrogant, but in a nice way, but when I don’t have an audience of my friends, it comes across differently . you just think Who does she think she is?

Which brings us to the hecklers Admony encounters less often on stage than on Yelp. “You’d think people would be better off in this climate, but they’ve actually become more demanding,” she says. “One evening a woman came into my restaurant. She ordered the branzino, but she said, ‘No sauce, no salt, no pepper, no oil.’ I’m like, Are you crazy? But that happens all the time. So I just said, ‘Okay, I’ll just grill it.’ And she said, ‘No, poach!’” What happened? The customer complained on Yelp that “the branzino was tasteless.” Who wouldn’t see the humor there?

In addition to cooking, Admony hopes to work in the basement in biannual sets. She was only able to open for Amy Schumer this week, but she says she still has to work on her stand-up material. However, she is very confident in the Olive Tree Cafe’s new menu. “I checked my DNA through ancestry.com,” she says. “I’m 97 percent Middle Eastern, so I bloody bleed for hummus.”

The comedy basement is revered among comics.
Photo: Clark Hodgin

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