About Us

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Alon Shaya

Founder

Alon Shaya really loves food.  He loves cooking it, being around it, learning about it, and teaching others about it.  Born in Israel and raised on cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, Alon now calls New Orleans his home. The three celebrated restaurants he started and  helmed as executive chef/partner - Domenica, Pizza Domenica, and Shaya - all reflect his culinary journey and resounding love of Israeli and Italian cuisine.

 

In 2017, Alon formed Pomegranate Hospitality to create a space where meaningful, lasting relationships are created, community engagement prospers, and cultural differences are celebrated.  Pomegranate Hospitality hopes to foster opportunities for colleagues, partners and friends in a comfortable environment, helping all involved to achieve their personal and professional goals.

 

In 2016, Alon joined forces with Donna Barnett, his high school home economics teacher, to start the Shaya Barnett Foundation, committed to providing culinary education and resources to high school students. Tapping into the philanthropic community in New Orleans and beyond, Alon cooks to raise money for No Kid Hungry, Alex's Lemonade Stand, and DC Central Kitchen/Martha's Table.  He is a recipient of the "Youth Advocate Award" from Liberty's Kitchen, and was honored by InspireNOLA Schools for his work with Edna Karr Charter High School.

 

In March 2018, Alon will publish his debut cookbook, "Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel" (Knopf). Part memoir and part cookbook, Alon shares his deeply personal journey of survival and discovery, exploring the evolution of a cuisine and the transformative power and magic of food and cooking. Readers learn the secret to making Shaya's acclaimed pita bread while hearing the food stories that have shaped his life.

 

Alon has been nominated for five James Beard Awards.  He has been named "Best Chef, South" while at Domenica in 2015, and Shaya won "Best New Restaurant" in 2016.  He was named one of the "50 People Who Are Changing the South" by Southern Living magazine in 2015, and one of the "50 Most Influential Jews in America" by The Forward.

 

Alon, his wife Emily, and their two dogs Henry and Ceci, live in New Orleans.  On their days off, they enjoying traveling for new food experiences, playing tennis, and fly fishing.

 
 
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Cara Peterson

Chef

Cara Peterson found her way to Pomegranate Hospitality through her interest in simple but nuanced flavors. She grew up in a military family and lived in multiple cities in the United States and abroad. Her varied background provided a broad exposure to regional cuisines and uncommon ingredients. With a degree from Virginia Tech specializing in technical writing and horticulture she’s propelled into a creative and holistic approach to food.

 

While initially beginning in baking and pastry in Virginia, Peterson alternated between sweet and savory throughout her career finding unique textures and techniques in each discipline. Working in Northern Virginia exposed her to globally curated flavors under the guise of a wine bar but it was in Philadelphia that her interest developed in Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine where she was the pastry chef at Zahav Restaurant from 2014 to 2015.

 

Following a move to New Orleans she furthered her skills at Shaya Restaurant starting as a line cook and working her way up to executive sous chef. When the sun’s out you can find her with a glass of tequila or exploring a local garden.

 
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Zachary Engel

Culinary Director

Zachary Engel’s decision to attend New Orleans’ Tulane University turned out to be more fortuitous than he may have ever imagined. While earning a degree in business, the Orlando native worked the line at Alon Shaya’s Domenica. Engel found a mentor in Shaya and emarked on a career in food. 

 

After college, Engel racked up experiences around the country. He learned the fundamentals of Israeli cooking from Michael Solmonov at Zahav in Philadelphia, worked under Jesse Mallgren at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, California, and was the chef de cuisine at Federal Donuts back in Philly. In between, he spent a summer in Tel Aviv, Israel, staging alongside Chef Meir Adoni at Catit. Engel, hungry to continue to explore the foods of modern-day Israel and the Middle East, joined Shaya’s opening team for his new namesake concept in New Orleans.

 

At Shaya, Engel rose from sous chef to chef de cuisine in one short year. With a heartfelt obligation to honor the falafel and hummus he encountered in Israel (in a city known for gumbo and etouffée) Engel helped reel in Shaya’s James Beard Award for “Best New Restaurant” in 2016. In 2017, Engel won the James Beard Award for “Rising Star Chef of the Year,” was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, and promoted to Executive Chef.

 
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Sean Courtney

Operations Director

Sean Courtney joins the Pomegranate Hospitality team from a long career in the culinary world. He is a 2012 graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a degree in hospitality management and business. After college, Sean was the food & beverage director at Le Triomphe Country Club in Lafayette before moving to New Orleans in 2014 to further pursue a career in the hospitality industry. He has worked on the opening teams of both Pizza Domenica and Shaya Restaurant, acting most recently as the General Manager of Shaya. He joins the team as the Operations Director, focusing on team growth and excellent service.  Sean loves living in the Irish Channel, favorite spots range from Pete’s out in the Cold to Bouligny Tavern. 

 
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Meredith Dunbar

Communications Director

Meredith has found her forever home here in New Orleans- a city which indulges her love of bringing people together over a good meal. A 2011 graduate of Tulane University and native of Baltimore, Maryland, Meredith has a professional background in restaurant management & chef assistance. She has been working with Alon since 2015, most recently focusing her efforts on his upcoming cookbook and the development of the Shaya Barnett Foundation. When she's not spending the afternoon eating her way across the city, you can find her grooving to all of the live music New Orleans has to offer, or hanging out in the yard with her pups & plants.