Time for Episode 3 of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma. When we left our protagonist at the end of Episode 2, he was rejected from the prestigious Totsuki Teahouse Culinary Academy. Episode 3 is largely scene setting, so while nothing spectacular happens in the episode – it’s largely important for introducing the world of Shokugeki no Soma. The usual disclaimer applies: never watch this show on an empty stomach.
The reason why this show works quite frankly, is because it combines the nailbiting tension of Iron Chef and Masterchef and Hell’s Kitchen with the familiar setting of high school and friends and an anime protagonist. Not to mention over the top effects, which I am deeply fond of. If Gordon Ramsey could have CGI effects surround him everytime he shouted at someone in Hell’s Kitchen, I’m sure he’d have it.
Megumi Tadakoro, Age 15.
We’re immediately introduced to the “everyday girl” character of Megumi Tadakoro. From her simple roots, she’s supported by the love of her family and town to go to Totsuki Culinary Academy. Yet love and support is simply not enough to carry her through the rigorous school and she finds herself on the knife edge of failure – where if she gets one more failing grade, she’s out. During the induction ceremony for high school freshmen, she opts to stay out of sight and just pass. She certainly won’t stand out and she certainly won’t associate herself with Soma Yukihira, who has magically gained the ire of his entire peer group.
Megumi’s not a bad cook nor is she lacking in knowledge of how things work in the kitchen. Her precarious situation seems to stem from her temperament (the professional kitchen is a cruel place for those of gentle temperaments) and something lacking in her practical skill. But we need someone who is sympathetic to Soma and she fills this role nicely.
Megumi pondering her life choices as she’s paired up with Soma for a practical.
Here’s the thing – Soma is far from the finished product in the kitchen. He has a lot of heart and technique but not a lot of the necessary theory nor knowledge in traditions not his own. The food challenge today is to cook a boeuf bourguignonne – a hearty French beef stew that is a staple in the cuisine. Soma barely knows how to pronounce it and compares it to Asian braised beef. This doesn’t bode well for Megumi, who points out that the master of French cuisine at this school famously does not smile and is a harsh grader. Anything that doesn’t get an A, fails immediately.
The situation is compounded by the fact that earning the ire of your peer group is never a good idea and Megumi and Soma find themselves the victim of sabotaged. Someone poured salt into their boeuf bourguignonne and they have less than 30 minutes to rescue it. Oh no! People want to see Soma fail – this is what we see time and time again as a reoccurring theme. Yet, he rises up and presents a beautifully plated and juicy dish.
The sign of a good boeuf bourguignonne is whether the beef falls apart on your fork.
We find out that the secret of this dish is honey – a cheat, essentially. Yet the flavours of this beef stew are so intense that it makes our strict teacher smile. Yeah. That’s how good Soma is.
I could go on about how the best part of this show is the over the top reactions.
Megumi doesn’t get expelled as they pass with an A grade, Soma pulls against all odds again and he has a friend who can help him through the rigours of Totsuki Teahouse Culinary Academy. I feel at this point, a lot of groundwork has been covered in terms of setting the series up and this is where we can springboard into more interesting things.
Before I give my final grades for the episode, a couple of people got in touch regarding my suitability in awarding a gastronomy factor to this show. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to say that while I never went to culinary school and I enjoy eating food a lot – I also spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I am suitably versed in culinary theory ala Escoffier. I could make you a decent boeuf bourguignon.
Episode 3 Rating: 3/5. Nothing terribly groundbreaking here, but a lot of important information is set down for the future – namely the introduction of the sympathetic Megumi Tadakoro and the sign that this show has done its research.
Episode 3 Gastronomy Factor: 1/5. Boeuf bourguignon is a cornerstone of French cuisine and Soma’s addition of honey to both tenderise the meat and in the sauce is a suitable fix if someone uses too dry a wine in the stock or in this case, way too much salt. There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking here.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is broadcast every Friday in Japan, with a simulcast available on Crunchyroll the same day at 8:25pm IST.