Abdullahi hails from Ethiopia and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology before switching career paths. Instead of getting a graduate degree in psychology as she had intended to do, she applied to the Culinary Institute of America. While Abdullahi was waiting to hear if she got accepted to the prestigious institution (she did!) she decided to hone her culinary skills by traveling to 18 different countries. During her three-month travel stint, Abdullahi sampled dishes and studied flavors from around the world.
Since becoming a chef, Abdullahi has worked at the three-Michelin-star eatery, Noma, in Copenhagen, and was previously the culinary manager at five Hillstone Restaurant Group locations. Her dishes tend to include nods to her Ethiopian roots, like her recipe for coffee- braised short ribs that was included in a cookbook called A Place at the Table: New American Recipes From the Nation’s Top Foreign-Born Chefs. Her upcoming projects include opening Marcus Samuelsson’s’ forthcoming Chelsea restaurant later this summer. Abdullahi has also partnered with some friends and heads a non-profit organization that builds schools and gives access to water to families in rural parts of Ethiopia. This year, they have begun construction on their sixth school.