cover image Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel

Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel

Alon Shaya, with Tina Antolini. Knopf, $35 (440p) ISBN 978-0-451-49416-0

Two-time James Beard–award winner Shaya has written an excellent cookbook with a moving narrative about his journey from childhood as a young Israeli immigrant to the U.S., to days as a ne’er-do-well student championed by his high school home-economics teacher, to life as a chef in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Italy, and places in between. He recalls his final trip to see his dying grandmother—the one who nurtured him with food as a child. With her unable to speak well, and his Hebrew nearly nonexistent, he raced back and forth from the kitchen to her bedroom to have her taste and critique as he tried to capture the essence of her cooking before she died. He includes those recipes here, among them a chilled yogurt soup with walnuts; spanokopita made with collard greens; and lutenitsa, a tomato-pepper spread. Shaya’s infusions of Israeli flavors into American dishes are clever, such as in a labneh cheesecake with pomegranate caramel and candied nuts or a za’atar fried chicken. There are soul-warming dishes, such as ricotta cavatelli with white Bolognese, curried sweet potato and leek pie, and linguine and clams in a carbonara sauce. This is a must-read book for up-and-coming chefs, and a worthy addition to the chef-memoir genre. (Mar.)