Alon Shaya, the chef who made his name synonymous with modern Israeli cuisine in New Orleans, is now doing business under a different name.
After parting ways with his former boss John Besh, chef Alon Shaya officially hung his own shingle this week by launching a new culinary company. It’s called Pomegranate Hospitality, and Shaya introduced it via a letter on its new web site.
“Together, we will work to create an organization of meaningful and lasting relationships, that will include dining, community engagement and opportunities for all involved to prosper and achieve their personal and professional goals,” Shaya wrote.
Pomegranate Hospitality does not now have any restaurants under its umbrella, and the chef declined to elaborate on details of his plans.
Chef John Besh and his partners have built a collection of restaurants that have different c…
Alon Shaya has previously been chef and partner at the restaurant Shaya, and also the Italian restaurants Domenica and Pizza Domenica. All three restaurants were developed by the Besh Restaurant Group, and they have become popular in New Orleans and magnets for out-of-town attention, racking up prominent culinary awards.
In September, however, Shaya and Besh’s group split, in news first reported by nola.com. He has been in negotiation to try to buy Shaya from his previous partners. In his letter, Shaya indicated his future with his namesake restaurant was still an open question.
“Though I remain fully committed to the possibility of acquiring Shaya restaurant in the near future, I look forward to turning the page in my next chapter here in New Orleans and beyond,” Shaya wrote.
Shaya opened in 2015 serving modern Israeli cuisine, a contemporary blend of traditional Middle Eastern flavors and influences from the broader world of Jewish cooking.
Shaya has been a partner in the restaurant from the start, and he has described the restaurant as a personal reflection of his roots. The Tel Aviv native was raised in Philadelphia and started working with the Besh Restaurant Group in 2003.
Alon Shaya won the James Beard Foundation's regional award for Best Chef: South in 2015. In 2016, the restaurant Shaya won the national award for Best New Restaurant in 2016. This spring, Shaya’s then-chef de cuisine, Zachary Engel won the national award for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Since Shaya left the Besh Restaurant Group, the company has promoted Engel to executive chef; while Michael Wilson, formerly chef de cuisine at Domenica and Pizza Domenica, was promoted to executive chef for both of those restaurants.
In introducing Pomegranate Hospitality, Shaya explained that he chose the pomegranate for its symbolism of “fruitfulness and goodness in many different cultures around the world.”
“It’s made up of hundreds of beautiful seeds, filled with life, all of which contribute equally to the ability of the plant, as a whole, to survive and prosper. I have always felt a connection to the pomegranate as a cook, but I also believe in it as a metaphor: I like what it stands for,” he wrote.
Earlier this year, Shaya formed the Shaya Barnett Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at culinary education for high school students. The chef also as a cookbook and memoir in the works. “Shaya, an Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” is slated for release in March by Knopf.
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