NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Chef Alon Shaya calls it one of the most hurtful moments of his life. A week after opening his new restaurant, Shaya is speaking out about his legal battle with John Besh and the very public fallout between the two former friends.
Making his signature pita bread, chef Alon Shaya is in his element. Standing at the helm of his new restaurant on Magazine Street, Saba, Shaya says this is the realization of a lifelong dream. It's also his first step forward after a legal battle with Besh, his former boss.
"It's a blessing, it really is. It's given us a chance to reflect on what's most important to us," Shaya said.
Shaya was part owner and executive chef of the Israeli restaurant that bore his name until he was fired last September. He says he was let go after speaking with a Times-Picayune reporter about sexual misconduct allegations against Besh. Twenty-five current and former members of the Besh Restaurant Group said they were victims of sexual harassment while working for Besh. He later stepped down from his company.
A legal dispute over the "Shaya" name followed. The issue has been settled, with Besh's company keeping the name. The chef admits these days, it's challenging to even drive past the restaurant.
"It's been very hard, yes, it has been difficult," Shaya stated.
But he stresses that painful chapter only motivated him further.
"It's been really gratifying for us to feel like we were coming from one of the most hurtful moments in our entire lives to something that we feel so proud of to be a part of," Shaya said.
One of Shaya's priorities opening his new restaurant was to make sure his employees know they're in a safe environment with a zero tolerance policy for harassment.
"We're going to prove that to our team every single day. We have to work at doing that," Shaya said.
What he doesn't have to work at is selling his news place to customers. Reservations are already booked for weeks.
"We have a lot of surprises on the menu, a lot of things that people have never seen before," Shaya said.
And there are the Israeli dishes Shaya grew up with, the food that made him a household name. And the food that endeared him to a city that continues to show it's unwavering support.
As part of the deal Shaya signed with Besh's BRG Hospitality, he will not be involved with the restaurants Domenica, Pizza Domenica or Shaya restaurant. That's according to our partners at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. In return, BRG Hospitality will have no involvement with Chef Shaya.