Shaya chef de cuisine Zachary Engel won the James Beard Award for the nation’s rising star chef of the year Monday night, May 1, in a gala ceremony in Chicago.
Engel is a Tulane University graduate who learned in the kitchen of the nation’s newly named outstanding chef, Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav (known in Atlanta for starring in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival documentary “In Search of Israeli Cuisine“), before joining Israeli Alon Shaya at modern Israeli restaurant Shaya in New Orleans.
Shaya the man was named the South’s best chef at the 2015 James Beard Awards, and Shaya the restaurant was named the nation’s best new restaurant a year ago. As Eater noted, Engel’s win as a first-time nominee surprisingly keeps the Shaya winning streak alive.
The award goes to a chef age 30 or younger “who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”
One of the other finalists, Camille Cogswell, is the chef de cuisine at Zahav.
Engel, the son of a rabbi, was one of three up-and-coming Jewish chefs in New Orleans profiled in the AJT in January by Lia Picard. He is a frequent visitor to Israel and was enchanted by the food one summer when he rented an apartment in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel.
While his falafel and hummus are among Shaya’s most popular dishes, he told Picard that he would love for more people to order his version of sabich.
One of the other New Orleans Jews profiled in that January article, New Orleans native Neal Bodenheimer, also was a nominee at the James Beard Awards, the culinary world’s answer to the Oscars.
Cure, the sophisticated cocktail bar Bodenheimer opened in 2009 and has run since then, was one of five finalists for the best bar program in the country. But another New Orleans spot, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, was the winner in that category.