An Israeli restaurant in New Orleans doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but when chef Alon Shaya opened his namesake eatery, Shaya, on Magazine Street this past February 2015, he proved the doubters wrong.
In May, he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South for Domenica, another of the John Besh Group restaurants whose kitchen he helms.
In early August, he cooked at the kickoff of the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America, a national initiative celebrating “local flavor from coast to coast.”
That month, Bon Appétit named Shaya one of America’s 50 best new restaurants.
Shaya, 37, was born in Israel and moved to Philadelphia at age 4. As a child, he joined his mother and grandmother in the kitchen, cooking the foods they’d known in Israel. He attended the Culinary Institute of America and made his way to New Orleans to work at Besh Steak. A subsequent trip to Israel with John Besh sparked the idea for Shaya.
Last summer, with his friend and fellow Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov, Shaya gave food tours in Israel as a way of celebrating the ongoing evolution of Israeli food. That’s also what he does in his restaurant, where according to Shaya’s menu, the food reflects “the abundance of Louisiana and Alon’s close relationships with local farmers.”
And the accolades continue to mount: In October, Eater New Orleans dubbed Shaya “the No. 1 place to eat in the city right now,” and Esquire called it the best new restaurant in America.