Soma Yukihira is a scrappy teenager cook. He’s been raised in the family restaurant, and he’s quite gifted, but unpolished. He winds up attending a notable culinary high school for the best of the best. There he meets Erina, a high achiever with a “divine tongue… the most refined palate known to mankind.” Of course she also has a large chest.
The flavors of the food are evoked through exaggerated images. The first has made this series somewhat infamous, as Soma’s effort at a squid dish tastes so wrong the girl attempting it feels as though she’s being molested by tentacles, a scene given a two-page fan-service spread of her flashing knickers. As seen here, like those other books I mentioned, this collection is composed for men.
The dish shown on the cover is a fake pork roast, built out of potatoes and bacon to overcome an unscrupulous land developer who’s attempting to destroy the family eatery. The sequence where he describes its building is notable, followed by several images of the female executive experiencing “the rich juices… explod[ing] inside [her] mouth” and begging to be permitted to eat more.
Once we get past those pictures, the love of food does shine through in the series. Erina signifies fancy gourmet cooking and all the snooty elites that participate in that universe. Soma is the champion of “common, dirt cheap dishes” that when done well are full of flavor and maybe even more filling. He’s labeled a “common plebeian” (redundancy!) by the novel itself, and his skills will need the stuck up high-class chefs to acknowledge his value.
His challenge would be to make Erina admit how good routine cooking can be. His life of practical experience working in a restaurant, where the food has to get done and it has to please the customer, is his major asset, although his “screw everyone but me” attitude will needs its rough edges smoothed out.
The recipe for Soma’s rice dish is additionally comprised in the volume, as is the one-chapter standalone “pilot” narrative for this series. There’s also a brief bonus about Soma’s girl neighbor (the tentacle sufferer).
Although the artwork is aimed firmly at the youthful man, if you’re able to overlook the buff service, Food Wars! does a superb job of capturing the emotion of competition and the battle to improve and win. (And even the images can be laughably gratifying in a “really? they went there?” Sort of way.) There’s a strong regard for food and flavor that comes through the pages, and that’s the part of the show I appreciate.