Manabu Horiuchi – or “Hori” as he likes to be called - was born in Shizuoka, Japan in 1974. Even by the age of 10 – inspired by his talented mother – he knew he wanted to be a chef. “My mother is a very good cook,” he notes. “She never used any frozen food in her cooking when I was growing up. Everything was fresh and homemade. She makes a great bento box (the Japanese version of a lunchbox).” He took his first job at the age of 16 as a prep cook at the retirement home where his mother was the chef..
After graduating from high school at the age of 18, Hori moved to Osaka to atted the Tsuji Cluinary Institute of Japan – the country’s most prestigious culinary school. Hori excelled, graduating in 1993 with top honors and a special certification to handle and prepare blowfish.
He moved to Tokyo in 1993 to work at Sushi-Ko Honten – one of the most high profile sushi restaurants in Japan – as Executive Assistant Chef under celebrity chef Mamoru Sugiyama. Looking for a new challenge, he left in 1997 to become sous chef at Ichimura Kansai Kappou – a restaurant specializing in Osaka-style cuisine.
In 1999, Hori was bestowed the great honor of moving to Houston to serves as the Consulate General of Japan’s Official Executive Chef, preparing family meals in addition to cooking for large social events attended by dignitaries such as James A. Baker, Sen. John Glenn, and former NBA player Clyde Drexler. It wasn’t long before he was tapped as Executive Chef at Kubo’s Sushi Bar and Grill.
After piling up a long list of accomplishments with Kubo’s, Hori was again in search of a new challenge, and Azuma Group’s Yun Cheng – a long-time fan – suggested that his new Japanese tapas concept might be a perfect fit. No longer behind the scene, Hori is ready to pursue his goal “to make Kata Robata the best Japanese restaurant in America,” he says with a laugh and a look that is anything but a joke.