NEWS and EVENTS:
Some James Beard Awards drama to report: Timothy Hontzas, a finalist for Best Chef: South, has been disqualified from award consideration following an independent investigation by the foundation's Ethics Committee. Hontzas, who mans the kitchen at Johnny's Restaurant in Homewood, Alabama, is accused of yelling at employees and guests and "more likely than not violat[ing] the Code of Ethics." That leaves Ana Castro (Lengua Madre, New Orleans), Alex Perry and Kumi Omori (Vestige, Ocean Springs, Mississippi), Natalia Vallejo (Cocina al Fondo, San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Orlando's very own Henry Moso of Kabooki Sushi as sole contenders. The winner will be announced June 5 in Chicago.
It's that time of year again! Bite30 kicks off next week with a host of restaurants offering special prix-fixe menus for a set price of $35. Visit bite30.com for participating restaurants and menus.
Ibis Lopez, who honed his skills at the Hyatt Grand Cypress and Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, has been named executive chef of the Aurora Restaurant at the Celeste Hotel near UCF. Lopez takes over for Mike Trudnak, who's now the executive chef at the Daytona Grande Oceanfront Resort ... After 15 years of serving as general manager and wine director at Norman's, Yusuf Yildiz is heading back to the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes as a managing partner of Knife & Spoon, the steakhouse by John Tesar that opened in Norman's former space. Yildiz's last day will be May 26.
OPENINGS and CLOSINGS:
Veranda Café, from the folks who ran Daily Bread Bakers inside the Hall on the Yard, has opened above Deeply Cafe at 111 N. Magnolia Ave. downtown. In addition to gourmet paninis, tartines, salads and sharables (beef carpaccio, garlic knots, charcuterie), Veranda will also have live music ... Buildout has begun on the Debonair Supper Club at 183 S. Orange Ave. downtown. Billed as a modern-day take on the supper club tradition, Debonair will offer guests "innovative takes on modern fusion comfort food, a progressive and elevated cocktail/mocktail program, tableside hookah service, a sommelier-curated wine list and world-class live and digital entertainment." An opening date hasn't been announced ... Chimiking, the Latin American restaurant specializing in Dominican chimichurri burgers, has opened its fourth Orlando-area location, this one near Waterford Lakes at 422 S. Alafaya Trail.
Hash House a Go Go, the ambitious chain that takes great pride in stunning diners with gargantuan plates of food, will open its second Orlando-area location in early summer at Flamingo Crossings Town Center in Winter Garden ... Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will open this summer on the second floor of Epcot's Japan pavilion. The izakaya will be themed after Japan's seasonal festivals and serve everything from sashimi to okonomiyaki to karaage chicken.
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