Jan 5, 2022 - Food and Drink

Chef's Table: Belaynesh Wondimagegnehu of Buna Cafe

Chef Belaynesh Wondimagegnehu of Buna Cafe.
Chef Belaynesh Wondimagegnehu of Buna Cafe. Photo courtesy of Wondimagegnehu

Chef Belaynesh Wondimagegnehu opened her Ethiopian restaurant in West Philadelphia, Buna Cafe, in the middle of the pandemic.

State of play: Wondimagegnehu said the cafe began taking orders in late 2020 as a way "to give our community and ourselves something positive to look forward to hope, and wholesome food."

  • "Cooking is what I know — something I've done my whole life and something I know offers comfort and brings people together," said Wondimagegnehu, who founded the restaurant with her husband Demelash Demeasie.

We spoke to Wondimagegnehu for our culinary advice series, Chef's Table.

🛠 Must-have tool in your home kitchen: A wooden spoon.

  • "I love the feel and nostalgia of using a spoon, and more of my dishes require heavy stirring," she said.

🍝 Favorite home-cooked meal: Simple spaghetti with garlic, basil and olive oil.

🍽 Last restaurant visited and order: White Dog Cafe for a salmon dish.

🛒 Go-to grocery store: "Whole Foods for my favorite whole grain loaf loaded with nuts and fruit," she said.

🤔 Most overlooked ingredient: Black cardamom.

  • "It's what gives my dishes an extra punch. It's more available in African cuisine, but I rarely find it, if ever, in American restaurants," she said.

☝🏽 Quick tip for at-home cooks: "Cook down your onions, caramelize them. They make a great base for almost anything."

🔌 How to unplug: "As long as I'm home with family listening to classic Ethiopian music, and frankincense is in the air, I'm content."

  • "When I get bored, I play tricks on my family," she added.
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