(JTA) — Visiting Yad Vashem a decade ago, Alon Shaya got to see some of the Jerusalem Holocaust museum’s culinary artifacts that aren’t always on display to the public.
It was the James Beard Award-winning chef’s introduction to the fact that concentration camp inmates distracted themselves by recalling and secretly writing recipes — on scraps of hidden paper and cloth — from their prewar lives.
“Food is such a big part of everything I do. It really moved me that people who were trapped, who were facing almost certain death, were helped by these memories of food. It reminded me of the power of food,” Shaya said. “They would not have spent their last moments documenting this if they did not think this was important.”
The Israel-born Shaya was raised in Philadelphia and now lives in New Orleans, where he and his wife, Emily, own Pomegranate Hospitality. The