Washoku World Challenge: 15 Challengers Go to the Next Stage of Japanese Cuisine Contest

The 2020 edition of Washoku World Challenge, the world-leading Japanese cuisine contest organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, is now being held online in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Washoku means Japanese cuisine, and this prestigious annual competition celebrates the creativity and innovation of Washoku chefs of non-Japanese nationality all around the globe.

First launched in 2013, Washoku World Challenge usually features regional qualifying tournaments held all over the world ahead of the finals in Tokyo.

By holding the contest online, a broader range of people who are interested in Japanese cuisine – not only Washoku chefs – have been able to participate in this globe-spanning contest. 2020’s theme, “My Japanese Cuisine”, offered a further invitation to people from different countries and cultures to express their knowledge, technique and passion for Japanese cuisine.

In total, a record-breaking 199 people from 41 different countries and regions applied for Washoku World Challenge 2020, and out of them, the challengers completed the following three assignments for the paper screening round: the creation of two original dishes on the theme, “My Japanese Cuisine”, with accompanying recipes and photos; a short essay explaining how the essential elements of Washoku have been assimilated into these culinary creations; and a short essay outlining the applicant’s vision and approach to Japanese cuisine. In return, each applicant will soon receive a specially-created series of films featuring leading Washoku experts to support their onward learning and discovery of Japanese cuisine.

The Head Judge of Washoku World Challenge isMr. Yoshihiro MURATA (Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador*, third-generation Owner-Chef of the three-Michelin-starred “Kikunoi” restaurant – awarded consecutively from 2009 to 2021 – and Chairman of the Japanese Culinary Academy), and the Deputy Head Judge isMr. Masahiro NAKATA (Director of Taiwa Gakuen Education Incorporated and President of Kyoto Culinary Art College).

Today (Thursday 22 October 2020) the 15 shortlisted contestants are announced. Listed below in alphabetical order, they are:

Name:Restaurant/Culinary Institution & country/region:  Two original dishes created on the theme “My Japanese Cuisine”:
Ms. Naumi CARVAJAL UEMURA  Uemura, Spain  Simmered konnyaku with vegetables   Beef sinew and konnyaku stew  
Mr. Wa DUAN  SUN with AQUA JAPANESE DINING, China  Appetiser “Shanghainese garden”   Sawaniwan “Moon and Soft-shelled turtle”  
Mr. Asith Amila FERNANDOMaki Restaurant. Maki International Restaurant Co., Kuwait  Gyunikujiru (soup with beef and vegetables)   Grilled Gindara (sablefish) with Miso honey    
Mr. Man Fong HO  EDO JAPANESE RESTAURANT, Macau  Nimonowan – Shrimp dumpling and vegetables   Grilled barracuda Yuan-yaki  
Mr. Alex KIM  Takibi (Snow Peak, Inc.), USAAutumn Eve Hassun   Smoked Nijimasu shiro miso Yuan-yaki with creme fraiche  
Mr. Hendy LIU  Australian Venue Co. Australia  Daikon with mud crab, cod roe and lemon myrtle   Kombu poached murray cod with stuffed prawn meat in potato cylinders, Miso-Sake kasu sauce with watermelon radish  
Mr. Chao LU  SUN with AQUA JAPANESE DINING, China  Appetiser with five cooking methods   Nimonowan – Kuzu dumpling and Jinhua ham  
Mr. Leigang LU  Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai, ChinaSeasonal assorted appetisers   Autumn conger eel, Matsutake mushroom and Japanese dashi broth steamed in a teapot  
Mr. Sean David MELL  Katsumoto, Hong Kong  Roasted Chilean sea bass with black garlic Miso   Elote corn tempura  
Ms. Suchanun NAMWONGSAMRAN  Student at Chitralada institute, Thailand  Steamed chicken Tsukune with yakitori and natto sauce   Cured yuzu salmon
Mr. Piotr Wiktor PERZYŃSKI  Beaverbrook, UK  Hassun – 8 seasonal appetisers   Nimonowan – Red sea bream with watermelon radish and pickled benitade  
Mr. Basanta Bantawa RAI  Katsuya by Starck, U.A.E.  Pan seared sea bass with Miso butter sauce   Ceviche (Japanese fusion)  
Mr. Percival Adrian SHEDDENMaki Restaurant. Maki International Restaurant Co., Kuwait  Shiso Ebi (shrimp) Tempura   Unagi (eel) Chirashi  
Mr. Chih-Fan TSAI  Shinyeh Japanese buffet, Taiwan  Grilled tilefish with roasted walnuts “An Autumn breeze”   Dumpling with chicken, chestnut, taro and shiitake mushroom topped with crab meat and Chrysanthemum petals  
Mr. Luis Fernando YSCAVA  HIDDEN by 2nd Floor, Brazil  Onsen tamago (soft boiled egg) and asparagus   Pork belly and sweetcorn  

For further information and photos of the shortlist and their creations, please click here.

Deputy Head Judge, Mr. Masahiro NAKATA, said: This year, the Washoku World Challenge is being held online for the first time. We’ve received many applications from all over the world including from countries and regions that wouldn’t have been able to participate in the regional qualifying tournaments if it hadn’t been online. Thank you all very much for your participation. Although it was our first attempt, we were able to see a variety of unique dishes prepared by those who are interested in Japanese cuisine, and we’ve realised again the high level of interest in Japanese cuisine around the world. I hope you’ll continue to improve your knowledge and skills and keep on challenging. Amongst all of the applications, there were many truly wonderful Japanese dishes that incorporated the essence of Japanese cuisine, as well as those that highlighted the seasonality.”

Judge, Mr. Takuji TAKAHASHI, said: Having examined all the applications, I have the impression that Japanese cuisine is widely and deeply pursued across the world. We’ve recognised many new things by seeing all of your original and creative dishes. We hope that your participation in this contest has been a good opportunity to bring richness to your cuisine. And, please keep enjoying cooking.”

Judge, Mr. Hideaki MATSUO, said: “I do very much appreciate your participation. After seeing all of the applications, I’m pleased to know that many of you are not just pursuing the deliciousness of Japanese cuisine, but you are also respecting the seasonality and coloration. At the judging, I gave high scores to the dishes which incorporate Japanese food culture into the applicant’s own cuisines. These could be the seeds to spread Japanese food further around the world.”

The 15 shortlisted contestants will all receive a bespoke kit with a wealth of Washoku resources and now progress to the final tournament where they will complete two further assignments.

The first asks each contestant to film the creation of a dish that demonstrates their flair and expertise in at least one of the five primary cooking methods of Japanese cuisine. These are “nama” (cutting), “niru” (simmering), “yaku” (grilling), “musu” (steaming) and “ageru” (deep-frying).

The second assignment requires each contestant to deliver a filmed interview explaining the dish in more detail, in dialogue with their vision and approach to Washoku.

The shortlist now has just over a month to complete their submissions and on Monday 21 December 2020, the six Washoku World Challenge finalists will be announced on the dedicated Washoku World Challenge website and on the contest’s social media channels.

In a further twist befitting of 2020, there won’t just be one winner in this contest, instead all six finalists will enjoy a one-on-one online masterclass with a top Japanese Chef!

For further information on Washoku World Challenge click here or follow us: @WashokuWorldChallenge on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

The Judges for the paper screening round of Washoku World Challenge 2020 are:

Head Judge,Mr. Yoshihiro MURATA

Owner & Chef of “Kikunoi”, Chairman of the Japanese Culinary Academy and Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador*.

Deputy Head Judge,Mr. Masahiro NAKATA

Director of Taiwa Gakuen Education Incorporated and President of Kyoto Culinary Art College.

Judge, Mr. Takuji TAKAHASHI

CEO of the Kinobu restaurant in Kyoto and Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador*.

Judge, Mr. Hideaki MATSUO

Owner and Chef of Japanese Cuisine Kashiwaya in Osaka and Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador*.

* In order to further spread the pleasure and passion for Japanese food and dietary culture, both at home and abroad, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is appointing Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassadors.