Henry Moso of Kabooki Sushi has been named a 2023 James Beard Award finalist

After years of getting shut out of the shortlist, Orlando finally has a James Beard Award finalist.

click to enlarge Henry Moso - courtesy photo
courtesy photo
Henry Moso

Finally, Orlando. Finally! After years of being the bridesmaid and never the bride (or the groomsman and never the groom), we finally have a James Beard Award finalist.

Henry Moso, the talented chef-owner of Kabooki Sushi, was named a finalist in the Best Chef: South category along with Ana Castro (Lengua Madre, New Orleans), Timothy Hontzas (Johnny's Restaurant, Homewood, AL), Alex Perry and Kumi Omori (Vestige, Ocean Springs, MS) and Natalia Vallejo (Cocina al Fondo, San Juan, PR).

"Oh my God I feel so blessed and grateful," Moso said after the announcement was made on Instagram this morning. "I feel so excited for my team and I owe them everything for their hard work and focus."

Moso had been a semifinalist last year for Best Chef: South and in 2019 for Rising Star Chef of the Year, so being named a finalist seems like a natural progression for the 32-year-old chef.

click to enlarge Jimmy and Johnny Tung - courtesy photo
courtesy photo
Jimmy and Johnny Tung

Johnny and Jimmy Tung, nominees in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, didn't make the short list. But with Foreigner, Camille, Sorekara and a soon-to-be-announced, two-Michelin-star import from D.C. slated to open here in 2024, not to mention Kōsen in Tampa and Norikase in Jacksonville, the pair should be contenders for a JBF Award nod next year.

There was reason for hope after procedural changes were implemented last year to create a more level playing field — changes that included judges anonymously visiting nominated restaurants.

Clearly they loved Kabooki's blinged-out brand of high-end sushi.

Next up: James Beard Award judges and subcommittee members will anonymously dine at the nominees' restaurants, participate in discussions to share their dining experiences, then vote for winners. The top scoring nominee per category will be announced as the winner at the awards gala in Chicago June 5.

For a full list of James Beard Award nominees, click here.

Could we have our very first James Beard Award winner? June 5 can't come fast enough.

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