Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Michigan chef Hajime Sato of Sozai wins a James Beard Award

By meerna Jun12,2024

(CBS DETROIT) – Hajime Sato, chef and owner of Sozai in Clawson, won the 2024 James Beard Award.

Sato won the Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes award, making him the first sushi chef to win a regional Outstanding Chef award.

He was presented with the award on Monday evening at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. Sato competed against chefs from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

Sozai is a sustainable sushi restaurant that focuses on using local ingredients.

Sato first opened the restaurant in Seattle 30 years ago, but Sozai opened in 2019 after he and his wife moved to Metro Detroit so his wife could undergo cancer treatment.

During his acceptance speech, Sato admitted that he didn’t know much about the James Beard Awards until a few years ago.

When his wife called and told him he had been nominated, he said, “Oh, you know, it’s for fancy chefs. I’m not that.”

“I’m one of those guys. Can I make the sushi rice a little better today than yesterday? Can I influence the life of one person by serving sushi? That’s who I am,” Sato said.

He then said that everything changed when he was nominated for a James Beard Award and people started listening to him.

“I have been involved in ocean conservation and sustainable sushi for 15 years,” Sato said. “The oceans are not in good condition. The land is not in good condition. And a small restaurant like me can’t do much. But everyone here, the nominees, the winners, everyone, you have a voice now… I need everyone’s help so maybe we can have this awards ceremony in 10 years.”

Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimberethe husband-and-wife duo behind Baobab Fare were also up for best restaurateur, but the winners were Erika Whitaker and Kelly Whitaker of ID EST Hospitality Group in Boulder, Colorado.

By meerna

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