NENI – The story of a family, their brand and Balagan
Having the entire family gather at a long table for food on a Sunday is something very important to the Molcho family. This tradition, referred to as Balagan, connects everyone in the family and, one birthday, the sons – and their mother – actually had this Balagan immortalised in the form of a tattoo. For the NENIs, as they call themselves, Balagan is more than just a funny little word, it’s part of their philosophy.
The Hebrew word Balagan has its origins in a mishmash of cultures and languages and, in its wider sense, refers to something happy, colourful and, ultimately, pleasantly chaotic! According to Hebrew expert Rubik Rosenthal, this makes it typical Israeli. So this fits with Haya, Samy, their sons and their recipes, which draw inspiration from all corners of the world.
But these days mother Haya, the famous chef and cookbook author, and father Samy, a world-famous mime artist and body-language expert, often have to make do without the whole family unit for Sunday dinner – there’s simply too much to do in the family company.
Not only did their four sons Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan give the company NENI its name (their initials were used), but they are all active within the company in one form or another or pursue some of the many other projects. But participation in family holidays where the self-confessed nomads travel the world in search of new tastes and inspiration? That’s mandatory! Haya’s creations have always drawn inspiration from the Ayurvedic cuisine of India, the spicy influences of Morocco,¬ and many other places.
There are now twelve NENI restaurants spread across the European continent, and the elaborate process of producing the popular vegan convenience products, NENI AT THE TABLE, with their stand-out quality and trademark spicy taste, is very time-consuming; even the process of sourcing the ingredients is very selective. The focus here is on quality and true sustainability: ingredients are sourced exclusively from regenerative growers – something which is reflected in the taste of the NENI AT THE TABLE products.
Hummus is the trademark product that launched the NENI AT THE TABLE line. When he spoke to us, Nuriel stressed the importance of tahini paste in hummus as an example. It’s likely it took the NENIs some time until they finally found a supplier that met their standards. That also explains the NENIs dream of one day having their own farm so they can grow their own ingredients.
The creative head of NENI
Haya’s father often received payment in kind (produce) for his work as a dentist in Israel, leaving Haya’s mother with the task of conjuring up something from a variety of different vegetables – this is something that has influenced Haya from the outset. Growing up, the sight of neighbours and friends eating together at a long table was a common one in Haya’s home – and so a love of cooking for large numbers was instilled in Haya.
After she met her husband, she spent years travelling the world. While world-famous mime artist Samy appeared on stages throughout the world, Haya discovered the cuisine of the many countries where they lived. When Haya, approaching her mid-40s, asked herself what else life could offer her other than her beloved role as mother to four sons, Samy asked her what she really wanted to do. Her answer? Cook. Samy saw her enthusiasm and even gave up his own career for it. In their adopted home of Vienna the NENIs created their no longer quite so small culinary empire and, as a logical follow-on, the NENI AT THE TABLE products, now available to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.