So the jerk’s name is Shinomiya, and his first inclination is to not accept Soma’s challenge. For a guy who talks such a big game, I don’t know why he wouldn’t just stomp these annoying kids and be done with it. He shouldn’t even break a sweat in the process, right? But thankfully, Dojima, the lord of resort restaurants, is able to throw his weight around and force Shinomiya to accept. As a result, the game is on.
— Even Shinomiya’s peers think he’s being ridiculous, but who knows if Hinako actually believes in Megumi’s cooking or she just has some creepy obsession with the young girl.
— The asshole chef responds realistically to the annoying Hinako. See, I can totally buy this. I, however, totally can’t buy Megumi standing up for herself. Even his body proportions are realistic. This is just a realistic show from top to bottom.
— Of course, she’s brave enough to say a thing or two to Soma after the fact. Seriously, how stupid can he be!! He might get expelled just to save her, a girl he doesn’t know all that well yet. Is that worth it?! Ah, it’s good to see the girl be passionate about saving the shounen hero’s career. Too bad she doesn’t seem to save any of that passion for herself, though.
— It ends up being an unofficial shokugeki, so no fancy stadium filled to the brim with cheering students (clearly with nothing better to do with their lives). Instead, it takes place in some hotel annex that looks more like the setting for the next film in the Hostel series. Hinako’s even all tied up for the occasion.
— The theme of the day? Veggies. Eh…
— They can use meat, but the main focus still has to be on the vegetables. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Of course, I’ve had some great tasting vegetable dishes before. I just can’t ever get too excited for a vegetable dish.
— Megumi’s already off to a great start. Great character. It’s a good thing we keep her development realistic for this realistic anime.
— Dojima, however, throws in another twist: Megumi will be the head chef. Soma can only assist her and nothing more. After all, she will have to prove herself eventually. So… does this mean the spotlight is finally on the girl?!
— Tch… I mean, it’s something. But it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It’s one thing for Megumi to stand up for herself. It’s another thing entirely when Dojima has to use his authority to force her into that position. She never would’ve done it by her own accord. It just doesn’t feel like a breakthrough. And honestly, even if Megumi’s character had been a guy instead, I’d still say the same thing. Who cares about some pathetic character who has to be lead through life by others, male or female?
— Not only that, Hinako’s character is used for nothing but comic relief. For various reasons, the culinary world is still pretty male-dominated. So here we have a woman who has made it to some upper echelon of the cooking world, and she doesn’t even serve as a mentor for Megumi. She’s just there to be a clown, and sometimes, give off some oh-so-realistic yuri vibes for the young girl.
— The point is that this is going to be a long series. It’s going to be long enough that we’ll get plenty of Soma and his brash, cocky mug. He didn’t need to be involved in this subplot.
— Dojima warns Soma not to influence Megumi’s recipe. After all, he’s supposedly a sous chef and nothing more… as if that means something. I’m pretty sure most respectable head chefs respect their sous chefs enough to collaborate with them, but sure, in this universe, the sous chef is nothing more than a glorified line cook.
— First things first, Soma has to get the girl to stop shaking in her boots. Basically, don’t worry about what Shinomiya is making, but focus on what you can personally do. But my god, if she makes a fucking rice ball, I’m going to flip a table.
— Every so often, the story cuts to Soma and Megumi’s friends, but they pretty much contribute nothing. I don’t even know why the anime bothers.
— When Megumi finally decides on a recipe, she’s still pretty helpless. She’s disorganized, and Soma pretty much has to hold her hand all the way through. It seems like he preps everything, and executes almost everything. It’s practically implied that he’s babysitting her. So what breakthrough? What spotlight? In the end, the girl manages to come up with a recipe… and what? Lah di dah. Oh wait, that’s just realistic, I guess.
— In the end, Shinomiya whips up this concoction:
A cabbage roll? It was kind of novel when the show kept trotting out simple-looking but at least creative dishes just to have the snobby characters turn up their noses. At this point, however, no one has really made anything technically impressive. And at first, it was fine because some of Soma’s dishes were at least somewhat clever. His opponents, however, never make anything clever. Let’s take kobe beef and make a giant, monolithic rice bowl. In a vegetable challenge, let’s put together a cabbage roll. I’m sure it all tastes great, but shit, man… you can find tasty food anywhere.
After all, who needs a fancy restaurant to get tasty food? There are cheap food trucks everywhere in San Francisco. Even fast food tastes great if you can find the right place. My mom makes great tasting dishes too. Hell, I can cook a great meal. The culinary arts, however, aren’t just about great taste. Otherwise, we’d be watching that fat, frosted tips fucker on the Food Network stuff his maw silly with diner food until hell freezes over. It’s about innovation. It’s about developing new techniques and skills.
I have no fucking doubt that a cabbage roll tastes awesome. I also have no doubt I can get some fucking heart-stopping chicken and waffles just blocks away from my office. Also, I grew up eating a delicious, homemade cabbage roll soup. In fact, I even had something rather similar at one of my favorite restaurants.
But the key is aesthetics. We’re trying to be more than just cooks here. We go to culinary school to be chefs. Here’s the thing: the show doesn’t have to give me fancy dishes — Shinomiya sure as hell doesn’t need to stick a 60 degree egg inside a cabbage roll accompanied by essence of carrot air to wow me — but at least be creative. There’s nothing fucking creative here. We’re not just cooking anymore. On the other hand, this is a shounen, a.k.a. the anime equivalent to fast food, so yeah…
— Foie gras sauteed in beef fat? Fat cooked in fat? Hilarious. When you cook foie gras, you actually don’t need to add any other oil to the pan for obvious reasons…
— Apparently, Shinomiya is known for shocking the entire nation of Japan with his heavy focus on vegetables. In fact, he’s known as the Magician of Legumes. Those damn Frenchies never knew the magic of veggies until a nipponjin showed them a thing or two. Heh, eat your heart out Alain Passard. You’re just a pretender. Even though you shocked and revolutionized French gastronomy when you embraced vegetables over a decade ago and still kept your three Michelin stars…
— Yo, it’s fine if you want to sing the praises of Japanese chefs, but c’mon… the French know a thing or two about vegetables.
— And for a vegetable-themed challenge, there sure is a lot of meat in this shit. Foie gras, beef fat, and chicken? Oh yeah, it was even wrapped in bacon. C’mon. Speaking of which, check out this potato puree I made:
I garnished it with steak. Sweet veggie dish or what?
— Anyway, after eating the stuffed cabbage roll, the judges feel like a bunch of cabbage-themed mahou shoujos. At least nobody’s getting raped by cabbage plants. At the very least…
— The asshole reveals, however, he didn’t try his hardest because anime villains are all the same. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Also, did we ever get into what he would have to give up if he actually lost to a pair of students? Hopefully, his shitty restaurant named after himself.
— The thing is, even though Megumi is freaking out both externally and internally, I wouldn’t care so much if it was only the latter. You can’t say the same about Soma. He seems unflappable in every way. But what fool doesn’t doubt himself every once in a while? In that sense, Soma ends up being dehumanized by just how awesome he is.
— The girl makes a terrine again, but we’ll have to wait till next week to see how awesome it is. I am, however, reminded why I’m not a vegetarian even though it makes all the ethical sense in the world.
— Snobby food tip of the week: if your date does not like wine, don’t order a wine pairing for two: