Adi Yonaei is Designing Delicious Tables

By on July 9, 2024

When I met Adi Yonaei for the first time at Hal’s Office Coffee, our conversation whizzed by, covering such a variety of topics that I knew we had to speak again. Over Zoom, we discussed the incredible places she’s lived, worked, and walked, as well as the beautiful meals and experiences she’s designing for her life and business. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Caroline: Adi! What brought you to the Bay?

Adi: I moved to the Bay Area almost a year ago, with my partner Gilad, who was accepted into the MBA program at Haas [UC Berkeley’s business school]. It was a dream he had for a long time, and we were especially excited to move to the Bay Area.

You’ve lived and worked in some incredible places. Tell us more about your journey to getting here.

As a lot of Israelis do after their army service, I traveled for seven months in Asia, which was amazing. It was a great experience to get to know different cultures, which intrigued me to learn more and see more cultures around the world.

I was lucky enough to then get into TV production in Israel—I worked for a year on Channel 12, which is one of the prominent channels. I was a production coordinator and manager on a late-night show. It was a small production team, so I had a lot of responsibility and got to know all the different Israeli celebrities that were hosted on the show. 

I wore many hats. If in the script for that day, there was a mariachi band, then I needed to quickly book a mariachi band who wanted to be on TV and could come in and do the show.

It does sound like you wore a lot of hats! What came after that?

I was able to realize my long-term dream, which was studying industrial design—I always knew I wanted to have some part in design or aesthetics. I was accepted with high honors to the Holon Institute of Technology and studied industrial design for four years. It was a very rigorous program, but also very demanding— I loved every minute of it, being in the workshop, learning new skills and crafts. 

Right after school, I moved with my partner to Milan for six months, and I got to do an internship in a design studio, and also just experience Italian life and cuisine. Honestly, just going to the local deli or grocery store and getting to experience all that produce as a big foodie—it was the best kind of school I could ask for.

Then, after seven years of living in Tel Aviv and really immersing myself in that city, especially in the huge food scene there, we moved here. I decided to shift over from just the design world and combine my other passion, which is food, and create my dream and become a business owner.

I love that you actualized your dream! Can you say more about your new business—Pree Designed Dining?

I just started Pree three months ago—I specialize in catering and buffet tables that are beautiful and of course, delicious. I do a lot of Mediterranean cuisine, but with an emphasis on “Tel Avivian” food. My style is elegant dishes, a lot of fresh ingredients, based on fish, veggies, dairy, and great bread. A few months ago, I threw a first event for family and friends, and the response was overwhelming.

Our friends from all over the world, from the MBA program, were even surprised by the dishes—they didn’t expect all the different things. A big part of the concept is that it’s buffet-style tables. Because in Tel Aviv, you never order your own dish. You always order some dishes for the table and share with friends while also enjoying a lovely drink and a great atmosphere.

I love having a very rich table. There’s always enough food, but then people can get whatever they want, and they share everything. 

Slowly but surely, I started getting requests for events and I’ve been getting to know the Israeli and the Jewish community, who have been responding very well. I would love for everyone to experience this food—I just know this hits close to home for many people in the Jewish and Israeli community.

What else are you loving about doing this work?

I love hosting, which is another reason why I started Pree. My mom is also a great host, an amazing cook, and she has a rule: never try new things on your guests. I definitely do the opposite of what she does. I love trying new things when guests come over, and when I’m hosting, I always want feedback and other people’s opinions. 

Collecting beautiful serving dishes, creating the tablescape, and even making the flower bouquets—that’s one of my favorite parts. It’s my creative side coming to life.

This business is very much a reflection of me. As a person who grew up a bit in the US, and got to experience the American Jewish community, I really appreciate the different types and forms of Judaism that there are here. I feel like I can relate—even though I consider myself very much a cultural Jew, and I think food is a very big part of culture, it all kind of ties together.

What might people eat if they’re at one of your events?

One of my most popular dishes is a tabbouleh salad that I make with quinoa, as opposed to bulgar, which makes it a bit lighter. With that dish, I have a signature dressing, from when I worked at a restaurant in Tel Aviv. That restaurant—La Shuk—was for many years, like my second home.

I also love using fresh fish—I do a Mediterranean sashimi, and in it, I always incorporate seasonal fruit and a little chili to balance the sweetness. Another dish I love making is a honey sage tart; it’s a dessert that’s very delicate but so yummy, and the aroma of the sage reminds me of the garden in my parents’ house in the little town I grew up in in Israel.

Delish! With all of this moving and traveling, what do you usually do when you get to a new place?

I love just walking around because I feel like that’s how you really get to know a city. One of my strengths is being a quick judge of the ambiance of a place, like a restaurant or cafe, and seeing if it’s full of people, what the vibe is, etc. Then I mark it on my map.

My Google maps are one of my prized possessions—friends from afar ask for my Google maps of different cities around the world that I have, especially places I lived in. And as a designer, I also love seeing the architecture of a place, and going to museums. 


Onto our in-house Proust Questionnaire. Tell me a poem, book, movie, play, piece of art, or media that you love!

I love going to museums, and I was so happy to find out the SFMOMA is such a beautiful museum—it’s more intimate and not as overwhelming as the New York MoMa. My friends told me about this exhibit months before I saw it, but I completely forgot about it, and I kind of didn’t get it when they explained it to me. On the top floor of the museum, it’s a musical experience where you kind of enter a room…I don’t want to give too much away. 

I think it’s half an hour that you sit in that room and experience the music. It’s super-powerful. You can definitely lose yourself in that exhibit. [Editor’s note: Ragnar Kjartansson’s exhibit, The Visitors, is on view until January 2025!]

What’s the best-kept secret of the Bay?

I live in Albany, and as a person who loves to walk, I walk a lot to Albany Beach. When you’re there, there are so many eccentric art pieces that people have made. I wouldn’t call it conventional art, it very much feels like it’s spiritual in some way. 

Speaking of…when was a recent time that you felt some kind of spiritual connection? 

Obviously, it is a very emotional time right now…ten days ago, when the hostages were rescued. It was more a sense of community. Even if it’s not someone you know personally… although one of my best friends’ sister, Yarden Roman, was also taken hostage, and when she came back in November, it was the most emotionally packed day…it’s emotional and I feel the community maybe in a spiritual sense. And of course, I wish for all hostages to come back, and for a better and brighter future for Israel and for everyone. 

It’s cliche, but I definitely also wish for peace and for things to calm down, and then we can go back to experiencing the small things in life, like a good meal and a nice drink.


GatherBay Profiles is our interview series spotlighting the vast array of community members doing rad things! Released twice per month, the series aspires to celebrate GatherBay’s greatest treasure—the people around us. Want to be profiled? Email