Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 14
The work-based stories begun in the previous volume continue here, as Soma takes on another internship, this time in the kitchen of a prestigious French-inspired chef (and former student at the same school). He’s opening a new restaurant in Tokyo, and he’s so demanding that his tastes exceed his budget, requiring his workers to take on all kinds of jobs to make an eventual quality experience for his customers.
Working in an actual restaurant kitchen, with multiple tasks needing to be performed at once and the standards higher than Soma’s ever seen, is a new level of challenge. More importantly, it’s fun to read about. I wish they’d been more specific about the whole, multiple-course menu, though, because I wanted more dishes to drool over. I enjoyed the comparison between French and Japanese cooking techniques, which were discussed during the last recipe contest.
Food Wars volume 14 is a great read for fans of shows like Hell’s Kitchen, although the characters here aren’t quite as mean or foul. There is a jealous second-in-command, but fundamentally, everyone wants to do a good job, everyone has the talent and determination to do it, and the team comes together to focus on the food. Soma’s challenge this volume is to overcome a gap in knowledge quickly and in good humor. The dive into what’s needed to make an exceptional dining experience is eye-opening.
I was impressed by how mature Soma suddenly seemed, paying more attention to improving his skills than worrying about his rank or position. That’s why he wants to take on a challenge that’s uncomfortable for him — his family restaurant, weird combination background isn’t a natural match for gourmet cuisine, but he knows he needs to stretch. And he takes joy in the learning process, which is an inspiration to the reader.
Unfortunately, although the internships last for four weeks, the story shortcuts the structure in the last three chapters to bring the students back together in the school, with new maturity and goals as they prepare to become second-years. I’ll miss the industry-based experiences that have formed the basis of stories in volumes 13 and 14.
It’s a shame there’s still the occasional panel of “I have tasted food so good I have lost my clothes.” This would be a lot easier series to recommend without that fan service. (The publisher provided a review copy.)