Philly’s James Beard Award finalist is Royal Izakaya’s Jesse Ito

The list of Philly candidates for this year’s James Beard Awards has been narrowed down to a single nominee: Jesse Ito of Royal Sushi and Izakaya, up for Outstanding Chef: Mid-Atlantic. 

Announced this morning by the James Beard Foundation, finalists for the awards were selected from a long list that had included 10 Philadelphia-area chefs and restaurants. The result marks a sharp turn from last year’s awards, which featured six local finalists and three eventual winners

This year’s nomination is Ito’s seventh, having last been up for the same title in 2023. 

Despite a narrowed down list, Philly has already secured a few wins in this year’s awards. Beyond the list of finalists, honorees for the foundation’s Leadership Awards were also named today; among them Muhammad Abdul-Hadi, whose Down North Pizza in Strawberry Mansion exclusively hires formerly incarcerated individuals, and Christa Barfield, founder and CEO of FarmerJawn which, at 128 acres, is the largest Black-woman owned regenerative organic produce farm in the US.

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