Feeding the Minds of Our Future

Shaya Barnett Foundation is committed to providing culinary education and resources to high school students. Through hands-on curriculum, students are able to gain the real-world skills necessary to gain experience and employment in the ever-growing culinary and hospitality industry.


As a struggling student in high school, Alon Shaya wasn’t sure about his future. Noticed and encouraged by Donna Barnett, his home economics teacher, he began to nourish his passion for cooking. Donna helped Alon obtain his first kitchen job washing dishes and eventually mentored Alon on the scholarship process to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Donna, now recently retired from 25 years of teaching, mentored over 6,000 students in her classroom. Alon won the James Beard Foundation Award in 2015 for Best Chef, South. The Shaya Barnett Foundation is currently in partnerships with the New Orleans Career Center in Louisiana and the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in Denver, CO.


Kitchen Equipment Sourcing

The Foundation has partnered with Edna Karr High School in New Orleans to help provide support in the form of lesson plans and cooking equipment.

The Foundation has raised enough money to acquire the equipment needed to outfit the classroom with the tools and materials for a successful school year. Equipment included everything from wooden spoons and electric mixers, to induction burners.

Guest Demonstrations & Speaker Series

Throughout the school year, Alon, restaurant team members, and other New Orleans restauranteurs lead lessons for students. The students love the hands-on time with chef Alon and have benefitted from the experiences they have gained in the kitchen.

Teachers and instructors also benefit by gaining an insider’s viewpoint on educating and motivating students from an industry standpoint. The speakers vary in focus and every demonstration emphasizes a skill set taught in the curriculum.


Community Partnerships

The Foundation brings together resources from our diverse New Orleans community to strengthen the emerging student culinary arts and hospitality industry. By organizing field trips and guest speakers/lectures at Edna Karr High School, the Foundation is able to support and expand on its existing Pro Start culinary arts curriculum.


Alon Shaya

Alon Shaya is Chef-Partner of Pomegranate Hospitality, which includes Saba in New Orleans, Safta in Denver, and both Miss River and Chandelier Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. Born in Israel, raised in Philadelphia, and a proud New Orleanian, Alon has always had a deep love and appreciation for food and the singular way restaurants anchor their communities.

In 2017, Alon and his wife Emily founded Pomegranate Hospitality with a mission to create a space where meaningful, lasting relationships are created, community engagement prospers, cultural differences are celebrated, and personal and professional growth of the team are weighed with equal measure. 

He is the author of Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel. Part memoir and part cookbook, Shaya shares Alon’s deeply personal journey of survival and discovery, exploring the evolution of a cuisine and the transformative power and magic of food and cooking. 

Alon, a multiple James Beard Foundation award-winner, was named “Best Chef, South” in 2015, and his restaurant won “Best New Restaurant” the following year. He was named one of the “50 People Who Are Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “50 Most Influential Jews in America” by The Forward.

When not working, Alon loves to spend time with his wife Emily, daughter Ruth, and their two dogs Henry and Ceci. He enjoys traveling for new food experiences around the world, playing tennis, and fly fishing.

Donna Barnett

For 27 years Donna Barnett taught the culinary arts to high school students in suburban Philadelphia. Her excellence as an educator, entrepreneur, and as a mentor is made manifest through the awards she has received from her peers in education and the community, and the accolades and accomplishments of her students. In addition to teaching and mentoring James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya, Donna also guided chef Ari Weiswasser, winner of The People’s Best New Chef for California, Food & Wine.

Since her retirement from teaching, Donna has focused on partnering with her former student Alon Shaya to develop a comprehensive culinary curriculum for high schools and helping students pursue their passion for careers in the food industry through the Shaya Barnett Foundation.

Donna holds a Cordon Bleu Certification in Culinary Arts, a Masters of Science in Health Education/Nutrition Marketing, and a Masters of Science in Health Economics Education.


4601 Dryades St
New Orleans, LA 70115