The James Beard Foundation named chef/owner Alon Shaya's modern Israeli restaurant Shaya (4213 Magazine St., 504-891-4213; www.shayarestaurant.com) the Best New Restaurant in the country at the James Beard Awards May 2.
The restaurant snagged the prestigious award following a blockbuster night for New Orleans chefs at the black-tie gala in Chicago. Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine St., 504-891-3377; www.lapetitegrocery.com) and Balise (640 Carondelet St., 504-459-4449; www.balisenola.com) took home the regional award for Best Chef: South, and Leah Chase received the foundation's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
"We are so blown away by this," Shaya said, when accepting the award. "Who would have thought, hummus in New Orleans?"
Shaya's win comes after an impressive first year. The restaurant opened in February 2015 and Shaya won Best Chef: South last May. Shaya was listed among 50 nominees as one of America's best new restaurants by Bon Appetit magazine, and was named the country's best new restaurant by Esquire magazine last fall.
Shaya was born in Israel and emigrated to Philadelphia before making his way to New Orleans, where he quickly rose in the ranks at the John Besh Restaurant Group (www.chefjohnbesh.com) and became one of the best-known chefs in the city. Shaya and Besh co-own Shaya, rustic Italian stunner Domenica (123 Baronne St., 504-648-6020; www.domenicarestaurant.com) and its Magazine Street spinoff, Pizza Domenica (4933 Magazine St., 504-301-4978; www.pizza- domenica.com).
Before leaving the stage, Shaya thanked his restaurant crew and supporters for the award and gave a big shout-out to his hometown.
"New Orleans is the best food city in the world right now," he said.
John Besh awarded Devillier the regional award for Best Chef: South, and other local nominees included Isaac Toups of Toups' Meatery (845 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-252-4999; www.toupsmeatery.com) and Slade Rushing of Brennan's New Orleans (417 Royal St., 504-525-9711; www.brennansneworleans.com). Devillier thanked his wife and partner Mia Freiberger-Devillier, along with the rest of his kitchen crew and supporters.
Leah Chase was honored during a heartfelt tribute, which noted her involvement in the country's civil rights movement and her constant fight for equality. Her restaurant Dooky Chase (2301 Orleans Ave., 504-821-0600; www.dookychaserestaurant.com) was a well-known meeting place for civil rights leaders, crusaders and politicians. The restaurant celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.
Chase, 93, who was in a wheelchair, was helped to the podium where she accepted the award, peppering her speech with characteristic charm and wit.
"Madisonville, just look at me now," Chase said, referring to her hometown. "A long way from the strawberry patch."
"I'm 93 years old," Chase said. "This gives me the courage to keep going for 10, 12 more years."