"Eden, Food Network, Canada"
Looking down at my iPhone, I slide my black metal sunglasses down on my nose, struggling to see through the bright sun what I’m typing into the YouTube search bar.
For the second time in two days I begin the walk across the Williamsburg bridge toward Brooklyn.
With the East River nearly below me, I hit pause Frank Ocean’s newest album and begin clicking through the search’s first few results.I hit play on a video and can’t help but smile as fellow New Yorkers breeze past me on the bridge’s graffiti covered concrete. Their Citi Bikes and passing conversations hum below Eden’s familiar and contagiously joyful voice echoing through my headphones.
I’ve known of Eden for a long time. In fact, she’s one of the first NYC food personalities I began following on Instagram, her magnetic personality and unquestionable beauty immediately transfusing an unforgettable impression.
And six months into my permanent move to New York City, I met Eden in person for the first time at a dinner, solidifying my sense that her virtual personality precisely emulates her “in real life” one.
It was a Wednesday night in the fall of 2015, one of the first times I noticed the sun falling below the horizon before 7pm. Heading south on Thompson street, I pulled my arms from the sleeves of my black leather jacket, draping it over my shoulders as I approached Sessanta.
I navigated through the restaurant’s sultry darkness, finding a long candle-lit table in the back filled with mostly familiar faces.
“Oh my goodness, hi!”
I turned and saw Eden reaching out to hug me for the first time.
That night, I sat across from her, and as we twirled pasta and emptied wine bottles, we exchanged the usual introductions.
She told her story, remembering what she was doing when she was my age.
“I think I just moved here from Israel?” she dragged a piece of bread though the olive oil, questioning her own memory. “I was working at Babycakes, they sponsored my Visa. I was partying a lot, icing cupcakes.”
She tasted her chardonnay with a smirk of nostalgia and then backtracked to her life before New York.
“I’ve always been somewhat unconventional,” she said. “I was a bit of a troublemaker.”
After graduating high school in Toronto, she moved to London for a two year culinary school program. She earned not only a grande diplome in pastry and cuisine, but also an enriched love for food and the people who create it.
I sipped my wine, allowing a moment to absorb the fact that Eden was only 20 at that point. But she only continued to leave me speechless, telling story after incredible story.
Hear Eden tell the story of the year she spent living in India:
After a a few years living in Israel she returned to the city. She soon partnered with a production company, eventually creating and pitching her television shows, Eden Eats and Log On & Eat, which were picked up by The Cooking Channel.
She explained her jumps not only from show to show on that network, but also to shows on other networks. She made guest judging appearances on Food Network's Chopped Canada and Donut Showdown. She even co-hosted Big Morning Buzz live with Nick Lachey on VH1.
“I kind of knew that deep down I always wanted to do food television,” she said. “And I found a way.”
Hear Eden tell the story of cold sending her resume and reel to the agency that ended up signing her:
“On your left!”
A passing biker brings me back to my walk across the bridge. I reach up to secure my headphones, suddenly realizing that I’ve been listening to nothing for the past eight or so minutes.
Just as my small white sneakers touch ground in Brooklyn, I swipe back to Frank Ocean and make my way north to 12 Chairs.
"It felt like we were Tel Aviv, but really we were in a cafe in Soho,"
Wiping a falling drop of sweat from my forehead, I remember Eden explaining the origin of her love for 12 Chairs, born well before she moved to Williamsburg. She had just met her now husband, who is Israeli, and they frequently visited the restuarant's Soho location.
Her words spilled out with almost uncontrollable joy, a pure and honest testimony to what makes this restaurant so special.
“It’s definitely ‘our place.’ They have the most authentic dishes and the most authentic ‘Tel Aviv’ feel,” she said. “They even fly the pita in from Israel.”
The Brooklyn location established residence just over a year ago, nestled cozily just a few blocks back from the East River.
I cross over Wythe Avenue and feel the restaurant’s familiar warmth, seeming as though the Mediterranean haven has been welcoming New Yorkers into its home forever.
I move along the perimeter of the restaurant toward the entrance, catching snippets of lazy Sunday conversations from each black metal table. Hearing families, couples and large groups of friends laughing, I let out a sigh through a smile, breathing in a moment of secondhand elation from them.
I cross the threshold of the open door, immediately greeted with a hug from the restaurant’s owner, Miri.
This afternoon marks only my third visit to 12 Chairs, but each time I’m welcomed like a loyal regular. I can’t help but laugh though, acknowledging I’m hardly special. They treat every patron like family.
“I’ll grab this table here,” I say, gesturing to a small white tiled table near the door. “I’m waiting for Eden.”
Her face lights up.
I smile a little bigger, realizing that to her, Eden is absolutely more special.
Like she knew it was her cue, I suddenly feel Eden’s hand wrap around my shoulder. As usual, she exudes uncomplicated coolness, her black sleeveless jumper falling gracefully along her yoga-toned frame. I pull out the chair across the small table from Eden as she sits. Before we can even pick up our menus, Miri asks if we want to split an order of jachnun with Eden’s husband, gesturing to him.
As Eden agrees, I look across the restaurant and see her husband sitting at the bar, chatting and smiling with the 12 Chairs staff. I smile too, not even aware he was here with Eden too. This really is their place.
“Jachun is a Yemen dish. It’s literally rolled dough that’s soaked in date syrup and baked for 24 hours,” Eden explains to me. “It’s basically the best of everything you could ever want to eat.”
Miri returns with our drinks, a mint tea for Eden and an iced americano for me. She asks if we’re ready to order.
I gesture to Eden with a smirk, knowing very well that I haven’t even looked at large laminated menu in front of me and that do not plan to. I’m merely a fortunate passenger on the Eden x 12 Chairs train, buckling up for whatever delicious adventure comes my way.
“We’ll do the hummus, the labneh, an Israeli salad, half the jachnun,” Eden orders with confidence as my appetite suddenly goes from zero to a hundred. "Oh and extra pickles please.”
I let out a wonderfully involuntary sigh as Miri collects our menus, her colored scarf catching movement from the open door’s breeze. She flashes a smile of genuine sincerity and turns toward the kitchen.
“She always takes care of us. She’ll hook it up.” Eden assures, softly sipping her glass of tea. “I hope you’re hungry.”
"I'm so happy that I'm here for when you have this for the first time,"
Looking down at the spectacular array of dishes in front of us, Eden reaches for the jachnun, speaking with childlike enthusiasm and sincerity.
I unfold my white cloth napkin. I place it on my lap and take a moment to survey the lavish spread, allowing a similar purely adolescent excitement to grow within me.
I’m happy I’m here too.
I slowly rip apart a warm hunk of pita, dragging half through the hummus-filled plate in front of me. Between bites, I remember the last time I saw Eden one-on-one.Last winter she set up shop at another local Brooklyn restaurant, Loosie’s Kitchen, joining forces with Chef Olivier Palazzo to create a Mediterranean pop up. The guest menu was originally scheduled to last 1 week, but was extended for a month.
"It was such an incredible experience to be back in the kitchen," she recalls, digging her fork into the Israeli salad. "I had been doing food television and talking the talk for so long, so it was great to walk the walk again."
In what seems like mere seconds, I look down to see our plates nearly empty. And the final remains of scooped yogurt and torn pita slowly transition to becoming mere memories in our hummus filled hearts.
I look up to Eden's husband, seeing a similarly euphoric look of satisfaction on his face as is on hers. I look down at my gold-faced watch, and through a smile, I let out a sigh.
Nearly two hours have passed, yet somehow time seems to have stopped for the few fortunate humans who 12 Chairs embraced on this beautiful end-of-summer Sunday.
Eden rises, pulling her black leather bag over her shoulder and placing her round black sunglasses over her eyes.
Making our way out, I feel each of us silently acknowledging a simultaneous appreciation for this blissful afternoon, but also an almost saddening desire for the ability to repeat it all over again.
On the sidewalk, I too bring my sunglasses to my face.
I take a moment to look at Eden with genuine admiration and joy for the amazing things she has planned for the future, appreciating my fortune to call her a friend—my fortune to absorb her congeniality and her incessant drive for bigger and better things.
With her husband's hand intertwined in her's, she looks back at me with a smile.
"Until next time?"