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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Shaya named Best New Restaurant in U.S.

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 9:18 AM

click to enlarge Chef Alon Shaya's restaurant Shaya won the award for Best New Restaurant in the US at the 2016 James Beard Awards in Chicago Monday night (May 2).
  • Chef Alon Shaya's restaurant Shaya won the award for Best New Restaurant in the US at the 2016 James Beard Awards in Chicago Monday night (May 2).
Shaya (4213 Magazine St., 504-891-4213) Alon Shaya’s modern Israeli restaurant, was named the Best New Restaurant in the country at the James Beards Awards Monday night (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., 891-3377) and Balise (640 Carondelet St., (504) 459-4449) took home the regional award for Best Chef: South and Leah Chase was awarded 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) including Alon Shaya’s win for Best Chef: South last May. Shaya was also listed as 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 eventually making his way to New Orleans, where he quickly rose in the ranks at the John Besh Restaurant Group and became one of the best-known chefs in the city. Shaya also co-owns the Italian stunner Domenica and its Magazine Street spinoff, Pizza Domenica.

Before leaving the stage, Shaya thanked his restaurant crew and supporters for the award and then gave a big shout-out his hometown.

“New Orleans is the best food city in the world right now,” he said.

John Besh awarded Justin Devillier the regional award for Best Chef: South; other local nominees included Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery and Brennan’s Slade Rushing. During his acceptance speech Devillier thanked his wife and partner Mia Freiberger-Devillier, along with the rest of his kitchen crew and supporters in New Orleans. 

Leah Chase was honored during a heartfelt tribute, which noted, among other accolades, 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), was a well-known stomping ground for civil rights leaders, crusaders and politicians. The restaurant celebrated its 75th anniversary earlier this year.

Chase, who is 93, was helped to the podium in a wheelchair, 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.”

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