New Orleans’ Chef of the Year Is Seaport’s Chef of the Moment.
Alon Shaya is getting a lot of attention lately. His namesake restaurant, Shaya, on a sleepy strip of Magazine Street in New Orleans, has been awarded the 2016 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Esquire put it on the top of their list as well, and the glowing list of accolades for his Mediterranean comfort food grows with each perfectly fluffy wood-oven charred pita and creamy hand-made humus order served.
What’s next for the Israeli born, Philadelphia raised, Italian taught, and New Orleans adopted chef? New York City! Lucky New Yorkers will have the chance to taste what all the talk is about as Alon brings a specially prepared menu of Shaya-inspired, Mediterranean-centric delicacies to the Seaport Food Lab for two short weeks in late July. It’ll be the latest venture in what’s been an already storied career that has seen a bit of everything.
“My life story is kind of how I cook. There’s no script to it, it’s just a matter of everywhere I go I’m influenced,” he says of the journey he’s been on, and how it keeps surprising him. “All of that kind of adds up to this really crazy algorithm that will never be solved.”
For Shaya, that story has come full circle in many ways, starting from his first memories of his grandmother roasting peppers and eggplants over the gas stove when she’d visit from Israel, filling their Philadelphia home with the smells of his Jewish heritage. Time spent in Israel really cemented his desire to embrace the rich culinary culture that he was rediscovering.
“I think the energy there and the creativity is a growing organism,” he says of his impressions of Tel Aviv. “I feel like there’s so much more there that’s going to continue to happen. I travel a lot and get to see a lot and that is always really inspiring.”
His next travel destination to New York is fast approaching, and the opportunity to showcase some of his favorite dishes to a new audience is a welcome challenge. Strongly influenced by location, Mr. Shaya looks to what’s around him to decide what to cook. In New Orleans that influence is the amazing seafood at his disposal. For his two-week residency in New York, the menu needed to be similarly inspired by what fresh ingredients New York offers him.
“Summer in New Orleans gets too hot for all the great vegetables that we love to cook. But, in New York that’ll just all be kicking off. We’re really looking forward to cooking with fresh eggplant, and using fresh heirloom tomatoes, and really just allowing the produce that’s grown around New York to drive our menu.”
Those fortunate enough to get one of the limited reservations at this pop-up restaurant experience will be treated to some truly special fare. Shaya’s modern take on Israeli fare with Middle Eastern, Turkish, North African and Greek flavors will be on full display in dishes like pomegranate and almond tabbouleh, green chili shakshuka, or lamb ragù with peppery harissa. Just how he will adjust the menu for NYC is something Alon is keeping to himself for now. It’s sure to be an inspired twist on what most would say has already reached perfection.
“We’re never kinda settling,” he says when pressed for what’s next from the team that just seems to raise their own bar with every new dish, menu or food venture. “I think the fact that we’re always questioning how we can do things better, and how we can keep improving is inspirational in its own right.”
We’re just thrilled that Shaya is making a stop in NYC on his continued journey to even greater heights.
Book Now for Chef Alon Shaya at Seaport Food Lab - July 29 to August 12.