The Israeli-American chef who channels Chrissy Teigen’s food brain

Adeena Sussman has co-written more than 10 cookbooks over her lengthy career. But none quite compare to those she wrote with supermodel, author and TV host Chrissy Teigen – who invited Sussman to live with her for a few months to cook and create recipes together.

“That’s what she wanted,” said Sussman, a California native and longtime New Yorker who recently relocated to Tel Aviv. “She’s a very impulsive cook; we cooked at all hours… it was a very intimate experience. They were living in a rental home, there were no kids, there was no nanny, it was just us – me, John [Legend], Chrissy and Chrissy’s mom. We were cooking, washing dishes, hanging out and eating.”

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The result was the duo’s first book together, Cravings, which came out in 2016 to great acclaim – it was the second best-selling cookbook of the year. Last week, the sequel, Cravings: Hungry For More, was released, but it was written mostly in a more traditional manner.

And there’s good reason for that. Since the completion of the first Cravings, Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend, have had two children, and Sussman married Israeli-American Jay Shofet and settled almost full-time in Tel Aviv. Despite that, Sussman still spent a couple of weeks staying with the family and working on the second book – before they stopped so that Teigen could better address her post-partum depression. They later continued “in a more conventional relationship – we cooked, compared, cross-tested” and communicated digitally, said Sussman.

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After all, in addition to all the familial changes, Teigen and Legend “became extremely famous in the past few years,” said Sussman – even more than they were in 2014, when they were creating the first cookbook. Just this month, Legend became the first African-American man ever to hold an EGOT – an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Teigen is a co-host of Lip Sync Battle and has designed her own clothing line – and her outspoken nature on social media has garnered heaps of media attention.

But even living 12,000 kilometers apart, Sussman and Teigen were in sync with their ideas for the second cookbook.

“Chrissy always says we have the same food brain,” said Sussman. “She calls it sober stoners. A lot of intense flavors, very fun food, things you crave and want.”

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In a podcast interview with Bon Appetit last week, Teigen echoed Sussman’s words.

“Adeena and I have such similar brains,” she said. “She obviously knows so much about food. What I love most about Adeena is she gets so equally excited about food [and] the passion that she has in the simplest things. Making recipes with her was truly so fun.”

Sussman said that while Teigen and Legend are aware that she now lives in Israel, she rarely talked politics with the couple.
“They’ve expressed interest in visiting; maybe they’ll come someday,” she said. “They’re very culinarily curious people.”

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OVER THE course of writing two books with Teigen, Sussman also accomplished a great deal in her own life. Amid a wedding and moving to Israel, the author completed her first major solo cookbook, Sababa, which is due out in June.

“It’s been intense, it’s been really fun, it’s been challenging,” said Sussman of Sababa, which she calls a “fresh, modern take on Israeli food.” And it was the perfect project to tackle now that she was living in the Jewish state.

“I wanted to be able to do more work that’s rooted in Israel,” said Sussman, who was trained at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, and lived in Jerusalem for five years in the 90s while working for Channel 2. Sussman, who grew up in an observant home, said she has been coming back and forth to Israel her whole life, something that made it easier to settle here full time after her wedding last summer.

But while she may turn down some projects to cut back on travel time – she just became a grandmother last month, when her husband’s daughter had a baby – she doesn’t think her career is impacted by her move.

“I have a different life now, I have different priorities,” she said. In addition to finishing up a book with David Burtka, the chef and husband of actor Neil Patrick-Harris, Sussman is close to signing a deal for a project with an Israeli chef, and eager to keep working locally.

“I hope to continue to develop food opportunities here. I think there are a lot of things that can be done to help promote and share what’s going on with Israeli food,” she said. “I think that food is a really good way to show people a different side of life in Israel, other than what they’re used to reading about the same old problems.”

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