Star chefs John Besh and Alon Shaya will soon have competing Israeli restaurants going head to head in New Orleans, but their legal fight has officially ended.
In a joint statement released Wednesday, BRG Hospitality, the company Besh founded, and Alon Shaya said they have settled a dispute that brought them to federal court and saw the former business partners airing their grievances in a series of legal filings.
The settlement marks the end of that lawsuit and it means BRG will continue to operate the modern Israeli restaurant Shaya under that name. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
After months of wrangling, the language of their statement struck a conciliatory tone.
Chef Alon Shaya has been dribbling out the news about his forthcoming Israeli restaurant like olive oil over hummus, and the latest dollop als…
"Both parties acknowledge the difficult circumstances that are inherent with a business dispute, but also recognize the significant achievements accomplished together over the course of many years of collaboration," the statement reads.
Alon Shaya was previously the chef and a partner in Shaya restaurant, along with the BRG restaurants Domenica and Pizza Domenica. As outlined in the settlement, Alon Shaya is now no longer affiliated with any of them.
Instead, he's now developing his own Israeli restaurant, called Saba, which is slated to open later this spring about a mile from Shaya restaurant.
Saba is taking shape in the former home of Kenton's restaurant, at 5757 Magazine St. Its menu is based on the same kind of Middle Eastern flavors and wood-oven cooking that brought Shaya restaurant acclaim.
In their release, both parties gave statements that sought to position their dispute in the past and look ahead to the future.
"We are grateful to Alon for his services and partnership over the past decade," Besh and business partner Octavio Mantilla said in the statement. "Alon is a gifted chef, and we look forward to seeing where his many talents will lead him in the future."
Alon Shaya's comment on the settlement struck a similar theme.
Shaya Restaurant wasn't originally going to be called Shaya Restaurant, and Alon Shaya wasn't the first chef considered for the modern Israeli…
"I am thankful for all the support and opportunities the BRG team has provided over the years," he said. "I'm looking forward to the next stage in my career with an appreciation for the hard work and great team it took to get here."
The court case began last fall and centered on who could use the restaurant name Shaya. In October, Alon Shaya filed trademark requests for the name, and the Besh group filed suit to block him.
In the next round, Alon Shaya asked the court to strip the name from Shaya restaurant while the matter made its way through court. But in January a federal judge denied that request, essentially allowing BRG to continue using the Shaya name until a hearing scheduled for early 2019.
Alon Shaya worked for BRG for years, rising in the ranks to become executive chef and a partner in three restaurants. He racked up a trophy case of culinary accolades, including coveted James Beard awards.
In court filings related to the name dispute, the two chefs documented the unraveling of what had looked like a fruitful culinary partnership. Disagreements dated back several years and eventually led to discussions of how to end the partnership, according to accounts provided to the court.
In September, Shaya was fired from Besh's company. A month later, a newspaper investigation accused Besh of sexual harassment and claimed his company fostered a hostile work environment. Besh stepped down from his company, which appointed a new CEO, longtime manager Shannon White, and pledged reforms in its policies.
Alon Shaya initially said he hoped to buy Shaya restaurant from BRG, but he later took a different route. He started his own company, called Pomegranate Hospitality, and hired the former chef de cuisine from Shaya, Zach Engel, and others from that restaurant. In addition to Saba in New Orleans, Pomegranate Hospitality is now developing a second restaurant, called Safta, in Denver.
Shaya restaurant has remained open for business through the chefs' dispute. Recently, Nir Feller, a chef from Tel Aviv, has been working with the staff to continue developing its menu.