It’s usually the case that my time (see this week’s Rinne post) is most limited when there’s really good stuff to write about. And this week’s Shokugeki no Souma was good stuff – it’s great to have a break from the non-stop competition (are you listening Suetsugu-sensei?). Though make no mistake, this was competition in its own right. For survival as a chef, if nothing else.
It’s a good thing Souma-kun is as thick-skinned as he is, because being assigned to work the pre-open of the infamous Shino’s new Tokyo restaurant is a huge break for him. He gets to train for a week with a team of elite Paris-trained kitchen professionals and serve food that must be of the absolute-highest caliber for customers spending an enormous amount of money. But it’s no joy ride, because in a situation like this there’s no time (or inclination) for hand-holding.
All in all this episode was an extremely effective depiction of what things are like in a high-class restaurant kitchen. This is a notoriously brutal business – the best chefs are generally tyrants in their domain, the hours are terrible, and the pecking order ruthlessly maintained. But this was not a shounen cliche – as hard on Souma as Shino and his team were, they weren’t petty or vindictive (indeed his butcher, Lucie, was quite supportive). They didn’t have time for such nonsense with a hugely hyped restaurant to pre-open – the kid could either do the job or not. Their job wasn’t to teach him, it was to succeed at the task at hand. But Souma took matters into his own hands and more or less insisted he be educated, and did so by proving his practical worth. It’s one of the reasons he’s a very good protagonist.
I also quite like the chemistry between Souma and Shino, who doesn’t resort to childish persecution despite his rocky start with Souma. He’s very good at what he does and tough as a two-dollar steak, but he too knows value when he sees it. If he and Souma can help each other, the stakes are too high to let his pride (which is massive) get in the way of that. All in all it’s an excellent look at the opening of a new restaurant and the education of a new chef, and the moment when Souma actually gets to finish a dish feels like one that’s been well-earned.