In 2015, he opened his namesake restaurant , a bustling Israeli eatery on chic Magazine Street that the James Beard Foundation last month named the Best New Restaurant in the U.S. The food harkens back to dishes he grew up with, drawing on culinary influences from Yemen, Bulgaria, Morocco and Turkey.
There’s the lutenitsa, a spicy Bulgarian relish, and the shakshuka, a North African dish of eggs, chili peppers, tomatoes and onions.
With a fulltime job at Harrah’s Hotel, Shaya also worked on his days off at Restaurant August for famed New Orleans chef John Besh
Shaya recalls cooking red beans and rice with ingredients from a looted Wal-Mart, feeding volunteers who were helping rebuild Willie Mae’s Scotch House , and struggling to reopen the steakhouse where he was then the head chef.
When he returned, he started sneaking Israeli influenced dishes onto the menu at Domenica – a head of roasted cauliflower served with whipped feta cheese was extremely popular.
Instead his partner, Octavio Mantilla took him to the chic – and expensive – Magazine Street locale, complete with a courtyard and an upstairs private dining room.
Many of the city’s po boy shops now offer pickled vegetables, and Williams says she’s found shrimp Creole flavored with lemongrass – both reflections of the city’s Vietnamese influence.