Shokugeki no Soma: Why You Should Watch for the Food and not the Nudity
Shokugeki no Soma (or Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma) is a shonen manga written by Yūto Tsukada and illustrated by Shun Saeki. It was adapted into an anime on October 2014 by Shueisha and tells the story of Soma Yukihara, a boy who is aiming for the number one spot in Tōtsuki Culinary Academy. Only 10% of the students graduate from this elite institution, and the audience follows Yukihara’s journey as he challenges talented chefs and learns more about the food industry.
A selling point in the anime/manga is the ‘foodgasm’. ‘Foodgasm’ is a combination of the two words, food and orgasm, and used to describe the characters’ reactions upon eating delicious food, as the taster’s face gets hot and their clothes get stripped from their body. An example of this can be seen in a clip from Episode 1, after the land shark and her cronies try some of Yukihara’s food.
Although this fan service brings a comedic aspect to the anime, let us not forget that Shokugeki no Soma is about cooking and focus on one thing: food. Not only does Shokugeki no Soma introduce the audience to various cuisines, but it also introduces other elements that are important to being a chef such as creativity. Each of the students come from a different cooking background, and it is their knowledge that makes Shokugeki no Soma not only an entertaining anime but an informative one as well.
[Warning: This article will dive into events that happen in both the anime and manga, so there are spoilers ahead.]
A Variety of Cuisines
What makes Yukihara unique is that his cooking style is similar to his father’s, Soma Joichiro, which combines multiple cooking styles as Joichiro’s results of his travels around the world. Yukihara also specializes on preparing dishes for the masses, and his dishes are considered ‘lowbrow’ to the other students. However, this is because the majority of students come from wealthy families in Tōtsuki Culinary Academy, making Yukihara the odd one out. They also have a speciality, and learned how to cook a specific cuisine at home or in a kitchen.
For example, the Aldini brothers, Takumi and Isami, specialize in Italian cuisine as they grew up in Italy working for their family restaurant, Trattoria Aldini. As a result, many of their dishes are inspired by Italian cuisine, as they adjust it to satisfy the Japanese palette. In the first day of training camp, their examiner, Inui Hinako, requested the students to create a Japanese dish using the ingredients found within their location. While most students opted for fish, Takumi and Isami went with their Italian roots and chose duck to create aigamo grilled with spices. Remaking the salsa verde to have uruka, a Japanese ingredient, they were the first pair to pass the exam because of their ingenuity.
There are also other students with specialities. Miyoko Hojo, heiress to a Chinese restaurant, specializes in Chinese cuisine. Ikumi Mito, who is hinted to be American because of her tanned skin, blonde hair, and American flag bikini top, specializes in meat dishes. Akira Hayama specializes in spices and is able to cook by relying on his strong sense of smell. These students are friends, frenemies, or enemies to Yukihara, and showcase their talents through cooking challenges. These challenges are what expose the audience to different cuisines, as each student competes by relying on their speciality to win.
A tournament that gives the students an opportunity to showcase their talents is the Tōtsuki Autumn Election, in which 60 students are chosen to present their food to industry professionals. The selected dish was curry, and everyone utilized their specialities to make a unique curry dish for the judges. Hayama, who claims to be the master of curry, presented the panel of judges with his fish head curry with a naan lid. To demonstrate his talent with spices, his dish had an explosion of aroma when the judges pressed their spoon against the naan. The aroma appealed to the judges so much that Hayama received 95 points, giving him the highest score out of all the male students.
Out of all the students’ specialities, there is one student that uses science in her cooking. This brings an interesting element in Shokugeki no Soma, as a new realm of cooking is introduced, which brings us to the question: is cooking considered a science or a culinary art?
Nakiri Alice has a unique speciality, as she creates dishes using molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy was coined by Nicholas Kurti and Herve This, and is defined as the art and science of selecting, preparing, serving and enjoying food. It can also be considered the ‘art of deliciousness’, as innovative dishes are created by combining different chemical components. 1 According to chemists, prepared food dishes are the result of a colloid, which is the tiny particles of one substance that are dispersed into another.
Alice shows off her gastronomic knowledge during the training camp’s buffet challenge when she served her ‘three egg dish’ to the masses. Despite its simple appearance, the flavours amazed the consumers so much that Alice served 380 dishes, and was unable to serve more because she ran out of ingredients. Alice presented another dish using molecular gastronomy during the Autumn Election preliminaries, when the judges were confused at her curry’s unique appearance. Upon its tasting, the judges were silent, as they were unable to describe the taste and texture. The curry sauce was foamy, and the dish was a mixture of warm and cold. However, she was rewarded 95 points for her dish, as the judges all agreed it was delicious, but were too tongue-tied to explain the reason.
Does this mean that molecular gastronomy will dominate the food industry? Critics do not think so, as they believe this subfield of cooking overemphasizes the scientific processes of cooking and does not acknowledge the intangible aspects of the craft, such as intuition and spontaneity. 2 Hence, it is interesting that in the first round of the Tōtsuki Autumn Election, Alice faces against an opponent that is all about spontaneity -- Yukihara -- in their battle to see who can create the best bento box.
Although Alice’s bento is beautiful like a jewellery box, she loses to Yukihara because she is unable to present the ‘fun aspect’ of the bento box to the judges. Opening a bento box is supposed to be filled with surprises, and Yukihara does this by adding mysterious black drops that reveal to be ‘nori bombs.’ Not only does he implement molecular gastronomy into his dish, but he also does it in a way that excites the audience. To answer the question whether cooking is either a science or a culinary art, the answer is… both. Rather than looking at cooking as two separate components, both science and art should compliment each other. 3 Food should invoke creativity, and it is because Yukihara implements creativity into his bento box that he wins against Alice’s speciality and proceeds to the next round.
Creativity on Dishes
Creativity is an important aspect in becoming a chef, as a chef must make their recipes unique and memorable. Although many of the students are creative, the student who displays the most creativity in his work is none other than the main protagonist, Yukihara. Unbound by cuisine traditions, Yukihara surprises people with his creations and is able to think ‘outside the box’. In the first day of training camp, Yukihara clarifies if they can use anything within their boundaries to make their dish and uses Hinako’s kaki-no-tane (kaki seeds) to deep-fry the fish. This is considered unique, because despite using fish for the exam (a common choice amongst the students), Yukihara uses his creativity to find a solution to bread the fish as there was no flour available.
Yukihara’s creativity is not limited to just cooking, as he is able to serve 200 dishes of his Soufflé Omelette using live performance. Upon his realization that he cooked the wrong dish for a buffet, Yukihara concentrated his efforts to perform for the audience instead of the food’s presentation. Because of this, he is able to complete the challenge in 30 minutes, which is a remarkable feat, as everyone was given two hours to serve 200 customers.
However, Yukihara’s creativity does not stem from his own intelligence. Unlike the other students, Yukihara continuously grows as a chef by asking for assistance from his friends. In episode 6, Yukihara used the Don Research Society’s recipes to create a don that will be superior to his opponent’s. In episode 17, Yukihara asked ‘Nikumi’ (Ikumi Mito) about karaage because of her expertise on meat. After his victory against Kabutoyama Tetsuji, Yukihara asked Tetsuji to teach him skewering techniques as compensation. Yukihara’s passion and interest in cooking helps him grow as a chef, and makes the audience root for him as he climbs to the top.
Currently, Yukihara’s struggle is to create a cooking style that resembles ‘the face of the chef.’ As previously stated, many of his cooking techniques derive from his father’s, so he has yet to find a style that is specifically his. Since Yukihara is competitive and determined to win, there is no doubt to the audience that he will eventually find his own style. This is what attracts the audience to Shokugeki no Soma in the first place: to watch passionate students fight for the number one spot in Tōtsuki Culinary Academy.
Although Shokugeki no Soma’s fan service can be considered a selling point, the main appeal of the show is the variety of dishes that are cooked by the characters. As every character has their own speciality, various cuisines are presented to the audience, as some episodes focus on tasting the dishes. Some dishes are so delicious that they have inspired others to create real-life replicas, such as Stanlick’s recipe for the Gotcha Roast, which can be found here.
Shokugeki no Soma is an anime that appeals to those who love to cook or love food, and is recommended for those that want to learn more about the food industry. Just don’t watch it on an empty stomach!
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