I love breakfast – namely, eating breakfast out. Especially at hotels, especially hotel buffets. I love hotel breakfasts even if I’m not staying at the hotel. They mean something a little different in Japan of course – Japanese hotel breakfasts are usually a funny sort of hybrid of American and Japanese sensibility and aesthetic – sometimes producing something rather sublime, sometimes just something really odd.
So as you can imagine, this week’s episode of Shokugeki no Souma was a fascinating one for me, food-wise. And I think it was the most food-driven episode thus far – it was the egg in its innumerable incarnations that dominated the narrative start to finish, with the character comedy and drama acting only as a seasoning. That said, there was quite a bombshell (though one broadly hinted at) dropped at the end.
I continue to be highly skeptical of Tootsuki Academy’s preposterously cutthroat style of “education”, this time manifesting itself in a challenge that basically forces the already-exhausted survivors to forego a night of sleep preparing (or fitfully tossing and turning because they weren’t) an “innovative” egg dish to be served buffet style to guests at the Tootsuki Resort. It’s one of the dumbest challenges yet in terms of candidate assessment (I think actual education has been left for dead at the roadside for quite some time), but it does create an undeniably fascinating dynamic. The students must get 200 guests to sample their dish – and the “guests” are actually the farmers and producers who supply the resorts, along with their families.
On paper, one would think these salt-o-the-Earth types would be the perfect audience for Souma-kun’s teishoku-ya style fare – and indeed, early on the focus in on other candidates. The Aldinis are here of course, and seem unworried – Takumi is preparing an ensalata frittata that’s sure to please – and Erina wouldn’t show an ounce of worry even if she felt it. There are a couple of new faces here too – a white-haired girl (Akasaki Chinatsu), who’s curious of and snarky towards everyone, but seems especially dismissive of Erina – and her accomplice, a black-haired and shadow-eyed strapping lad (Okamoto Nobuhiko) who fondles his (stress) balls and appears to fill the intimidating flunky role.
There are all sorts of interesting dishes on display in the hotel ballrooms. Erina makes a classic Benedict, but gives it flair with salmon roe (it is an egg, after all). Megumi makes an adorable tapas-style oden that prompts one of the toughest judges to propose to her (on behalf of his grandson). All of the big names seem to be faring fine, in fact – I love the way the cooking elements of this series are so in-tune with the Japanese palate, which places so much emphasis on texture and preserving the inherent qualities of the raw ingredients rather than on overpowering seasoning and knee-buckling flavor profiles. It’s good stuff.
The twist, though, is that Souma-kun appears to be in real trouble – for the first time in Food Wars, in fact. Both Erina and Snow White seem surprised and amused at his choice of dish, which appears to be a kind of soufflé omelette. He’s chosen it with the idea of making something consistent with the environment of the hotel buffet, remembering his father’s admonition that new dishes in a diner should be something their customers would expect to find at a diner. If not especially revolutionary, the choice doesn’t appear to be intrinsically flawed – so what’s the root of the problem that’s causing the guests to largely ignore his dish? Whatever the case may be, it’s certainly an important moment if our overpowered hero is actually in trouble and, of his own making at that – dare I say it, maybe even a chance for Souma to show some actual growth?