Apiece Apart Woman: Eden Grinshpan
Photos: Erica Gannett
Words: Leigh Patterson
There’s a lot of slashes in Eden Grinshpan’s bio: A Le Cordon Bleu-schooled chef slash TV host slash former restaurant owner slash cookbook author slash…mother, juggler of a lot of things, and very funny person who is quick to laugh. When we speak, she’s neck-deep in the production of her first cookbook, composed of recipes that amalgamate the flavors of her Israeli-Canadian upbringing and travels in India with a creative and fresh twist: think veg-forward, bright pairings; smoky and spicy Harissa and creamy tahini and handfuls of vibrant herbs cut with garlic and lemon and tangy labneh. Dishes where a ton of flavor explodes out of a seemingly humble ingredient list. Basically the food we want to eat all the time. (Eden, if you want to invite us over for dinner …)
It’s been a year of beginnings and endings — last month she closed the doors on DEZ, the NYC fast-casual contemporary Middle Eastern restaurant she co-owned in Nolita. But to talk with Eden about the end of the DEZ chapter, it’s clear that she is a person all about the process: opening lots of doors, exploring lots of ideas, choosing to be emboldened by the realization that some things work and some just don’t. Eden at once dives full-on into her passions…and seems incapable of taking herself too seriously (we highly recommend following her on Instagram if you are not already. We mean it as the highest compliment when we say: she is unapologetically silly and incapable of not cracking jokes, a reminder that things can be both poignant and weird, messy and beautiful, hilarious and overwhelming.) Because complicated is a good thing…it’s what makes life interesting.
“I grew up being a troublemaker. I feel like I was always doing something I shouldn’t: I almost got kicked out of camp several times, was permanently in detention… For whatever reason I was just a crazy kid. And I remember my dad saying to me around this time, after we’d talked about whatever I’d done that time, '…just remember Eden, never change.' And as I look back what I think what he was trying to say is that the only thing that separates you from everyone else…is you. Knowing who you are, staying true, accepting, embracing it.”
On articulating the flavors of childhood and the flavors of travel (then pairing them together in unexpected ways):
“Sometimes you discover an idea is there waiting for you: Of the 100 or so recipes we have been working on for the book I found that I already “knew” around 80% of them…I didn’t realize it but they were just there, sitting in my back pocket. [They were the pairings of] inspiration from my travels, from living and traveling through Israel, from a year backpacking through India, and also from just growing up in Toronto.
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and I can trace back a lot of my inspiration from Persian cuisine, which I first encountered while going to the Toronto markets with my Dad. We’d spend a morning at this beautiful big Persian supermarket, buying fresh barbari bread, all the spices, and pre-made tahdigs [a Persian rice dish with a crispy base, flavored with fresh saffron and turmeric.]"
"I'm half-Israeli, half-Canadian, but I feel like I connect so much more to my Israeli side — there's this really raw, slightly aggressive, honest, warm energy there that I just love. You go to Israel and visit the market and everyone is just yelling. It’s hot, and all the food is gorgeous and ripe and there are so many smells and colors and sounds. I just crave that so much, and I try to incorporate that energy that I feel there into my life here in Brooklyn.
As a cook, my palette is really made up of my experiences, the flavors that take me back to to places and times. Those are the moments that you hold onto and connect with.”
On pursuing a "dream"...and then letting it go:
"Opening a restaurant felt like a dream come true. Every time I walked in there, I thought, 'If I didn't do this, and I walked into this place, I'd be really upset that I didn't do this first.' Up until the day it closed, every time I walked in I would think: 'This is exactly what we wanted it to be.'
Unfortunately, the restaurant industry, especially in New York City, is extremely competitive. Rents are really, really high, and if you're going to compete in the fast-casual market, you need to serve so many people. But the truth is, all you can do is learn from your mistakes, and move on and up."
On the power of just saying what you do, what you stand for, and putting it out there:
"For a long time I felt like I didn’t have a culinary 'voice,' like I couldn’t decide what I wanted to focus on… And while I think it’s great to chase ideas and things you’re interested in, if you want to be an authority you have to just say who you are and what you do. Once I realized I needed to define the parameters of my work, so many things came into place.
…I also strongly believe if you continue doing things that you love, if you keep creating and putting yourself out there in a way that reflects that passion, it will create opportunity."
And part of that comes from the persistence to just keep putting yourself out there over and over. That takes a lot of vulnerability….
"Oh my god! [There are] so many parts of what I’m doing now that are out of my comfort zone. I feel like I’m a pretty outgoing person, but public speaking kills me. And I have to do it… all the time. But I realize it’s a huge portion of what I signed up for. Ultimately I feel very fortunate that I get to do something that I love every day, and that I can always change it up."
"The unknown can be scary. I think it really helps to have a support system in place wherever you can find it. There are days where I’m crumbled on the floor saying, 'I don't want to. What's happening? What is this year going to look like?' and I have a husband who will say, 'You’ll figure it out.' And that’s both tough love and good advice…[a reminder that] really the only person who can figure something out for you is you.
...Everything I'm doing is about connection: I want to be with people who will just eat, and enjoy, and laugh, and get messy. There’s nothing about who I am that is too precious or polite — and sharing that through my work is more than just about being 'real,' it’s about seeing that we really are all in this together."