March 2016

By: Tom Junod

And it kept coming. Besh was joined at the table by the man himself—the chef, Alon Shaya, who had a ready explanation for how food born in the desert found its way to a city born in a swamp. He was born in Israel, and when he moved to Philadelphia at the age of four, the food prepared by his mother and grandmother provided him with a connection to a past he barely had a chance to remember. He eventually came to New Orleans to work at Besh Steak, and when Katrina flooded the city he began cooking Louisiana staples for hospital and relief workers. Six years later, he traveled with his girlfriend and Besh to Israel, where he cooked "kosher Louisiana food"—duck jambalaya—for Israeli soldiers and also asked his girlfriend to marry him. They came home with Shaya already in mind, their inevitable offspring.