In the final installment of our Chosen Chefs series, we head to New Orleans to catch up with chef Alon Shaya, executive chef of Domenica. Like all of the chefs we’ve profiled, Shaya is a member of the tribe who’s worth keeping on your radar. If we were the betting type, we could some James Beard Awards in his future.
To hear chef Alon Shaya tell it, Israeli food helped get him where he is today. The acclaimed executive chef of John Besh’s Italian restaurant Domenica in New Orleans, was born in suburban Tel Aviv but moved to Philadelphia when he was just 4 years old.
The child of an Israeli mother and Romanian father, some of Shaya’s earliest memories were of coming home from school and smelling the roasting peppers his grandmother cooked on a flame. “Those are the memories that made me fall in love with food,” said Shaya, 32.
Yoshie and I arrived in New Orleans on a Friday morning. We were newlyweds on vacation, staying with our friend Josh for the Sabbath before spending a few days exploring the city.
Early in our relationship, the Sabbath had been a point of contention between Yoshie and me in that he observed it and I did not. To me, the Sabbath felt like a foreign country — intriguing, but filled with unfamiliar customs and signs written in a language I couldn’t quite understand. As our relationship grew, I gradually began to learn and like more about celebrating the Sabbath, and together we had begun to define the boundaries of a shared religious practice. Still, while we had found a good rhythm in our observance, I worried about how well it would translate away from home. (I must have forgotten that “worrying” is not a popular pastime in the Big Easy.)