Israeli-American Chef Wins Top U.S. Culinary Award

Alon Shaya was named Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation for his work as the executive chef at the New Orleans restaurant Domenica.

Chef Alon Shaya recently opened Shaya, an Israeli-style restaurant in New Orleans.
Courtesy

Israeli-American chef Alon Shaya has been named Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation.

The prize, America’s top prize for food, was awarded in a gala event in Chicago on Tuesday night.

Shaya, 37, won the award for his work as the executive chef at the Domenica restaurant in New Orleans, which he opened with John Besh in 2009. He recently opened a new restaurant, Shaya, offering an Israeli-inspired menu using local New Orleans ingredients.

Domenica is an Italian restaurant with an Israeli-style twist. Israeli-inspired menu items have included wood-roasted goat served shakshuka style, lamb bolognese with zaatar crostini and tehini sauce, and roasted whole cauliflower served with sea salt and whipped goat feta. It has also become famous for the Jewish holiday meals it hosts.

The Beard award comes after three years of being nominated as a finalist in the category.

Shaya moved with his family from Israel to Philadelphia when he was four years old. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

“In some ways, because I grew up in America, I had to work hard to re-connect myself to Israel,” Shaya told Haaretz in a previous interview. "I came to realize that what makes a restaurant great is if it can tell a story I feel like I am cooking my life story."

This comes only a few days after Palomar, a trendy London restaurant launched by three Israeli chefs - Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon of the Jerusalem Machneyuda group - was voted best restaurant in Britain at the prestigious Veuve Clicquot GQ Food and Drink Awards.