Two Mexican chefs were among the winners as Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries hosted the final round of the “Washoku World Challenge – The 3rd Competition”, a prestigious cooking competition of Japanese cuisine, washoku, for foreign chefs on November 23rd – 24th.
Ten washoku chefs from nine countries were chosen from the preliminary judging stage and flew to Japan for the final cook-off taking place on November 23rd at the Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo. The award ceremony was held on November 24th (designated “Washoku Day”) at Happo-en.
First established in 2014, this competition is the third Washoku World Challenge held by the Ministry. The event was set up to promote Japanese cuisine around the world by recognizing foreign chefs engaged in promoting Japanese food and food culture abroad.
There are an estimated 89,000 Japanese restaurants internationally as of 2015 and the number has increased by roughly 1.6 times in the last two years alone (1). The goal of the Washoku World Challenge is to increase global awareness and practice of the culture of washoku.
This year, the Washoku World Challenge is collaborating with two harvest festivals – the Tokyo Harvest (2), a harvest festival that attracts over 30,000 visitors each year, and Japan Harvest (3), an autumn harvest festival that offers guests a chance to sample Japanese cuisines. A limited number of shimotsuki, bento boxes produced by Jaran Deephuak, winner of last year’s grand prize and head chef at Japanese restaurant Nanohana in Thailand, were made available at each venue.
The participants who entered the final competition were:
At the award ceremony for the Washoku World Challenge held on Washoku Day (Nov 24), Chef Gonzalo Santiago Bautista from Mexico was declared the grand prize winner.
The 48 year-old Bautista is a chef at the Japanese restaurant Restaurante Suntory Lomas in Mexico.
Upon being chosen as the overall winner, Bautista expressed his delight, commenting: “I am very happy. I would like to express my thanks to both the hosts of this event and to those who work alongside me in the restaurant, as well as to my family. I would like to take this prize back to Mexico and work to promote Japanese cuisine.”
Meanwhile, Chef Samuel Flores also from Mexico, won the Harvester Prize.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Hidemichi Sato, spoke on behalf of MAFF, commenting on the globalization of washoku: “I would like each and every one of these ten finalists to re-examine the appeal and possibility inherent in washoku in comparison with the cuisine of their own countries, and spread the allure of washoku to the international stage.”
(1) Based on source data on the number of Japanese restaurants internationally from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website
(2) About Tokyo Harvest:
Tokyo Harvest is an event that is held for people to enjoy fall harvests and rediscover their appreciation for producers who support the food culture of Japan. This year, the event
was held over two days, November 7 (Sat) and 8 (Sun), in both the Roppongi Hills Arena and Marunouchi, simultaneously.
(3) About Japan Harvest:
An event held to celebrate the autumn harvests and food culture while carrying on the tradition of the “Japan Food Festa”, which has been held for the last three years as part of The Festival of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The goal of this annual harvest event is to communicate the gratitude and respect for food producers in agriculture, fisheries, and livestock and dairy farms.
The event’s hosts hope that producers and visitors alike can experience the appeal of Japanese food as they get a taste of autumn harvests from around the country. The event is held not only for general consumers of Japan but also aims to raise awareness among visitors from abroad by highlighting food products and ingredients produced in Japan.
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