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James Beard nominated Boise chef serves up authentic Ethiopian cuisine

Posted at 11:02 AM, Mar 03, 2023

BOISE, Idaho — Boise hasn't always been known for its variety of ethnic food offerings, but a boom in population is expanding restaurant options across the Treasure Valley. A local chef is now honored as a James Beard Award semifinalist for his menu of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.

Kimbrom Milash arrived in Boise almost ten years ago from a refugee camp in Ethiopia where he and his wife ran a cafeteria and eventually a restaurant.

"Everyone loved the restaurant," Milash said. "Even the UN workers used to come to our restaurant, and they were eating in our restaurant, so it was good."

The menu at their State Street restaurant in Boise has meaty options but is largely vegan, with dishes focused on lentils, peas, cabbage, kale, and carrots. Most are seasoned with spices shipped in from Ethiopia and are offered alongside injera, the Ethiopian fermented flatbread made with teff flour.

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"I can see some of our customers are addicted like me," Milash said. "I can't start my day without eating this bread."

They offer a huge menu but for customers coming in for the first time, they actually have a glossary that explains what a lot of the ingredients are. Kibrom says his returning customer base has become pretty experienced over the years.

"I see a lot of change on that actually, because when we first started, I can say I was eating my lunch with the customers by taking a bite from my plate," Milash said. "I had to show them how to eat the food since it's a finger food and it's really new for Boise and Idaho."

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"Now everyone comes in and they teach each other and everyone is talking about this food I think," Milash said. "So when they come they already know how to eat the food and what to order."

It's not just Idaho natives expanding their palettes to taste Kibrom's cooking, the menu earned the chef a spot on this year's James Beard Awards semifinalists list alongside three other Boise area chefs.

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"It's a very big deal for us. We are refugees and we came from a country that doesn't have any peace, and when we get this big opportunity, it's like born again for us," Milash said. "So I feel very, very happy and very, very honored for Idaho people and even for America."