As we wait to find out whom that will be, there are cutaways providing more insight into the characters of some of the adversaries, including putting on the page just what makes Soma this type of great chef: his determination. That’s to be anticipated in this type of competition manga, a validation of openness to work hard and never give up. We also get the melancholy backstory of Akira, the spice master.
About a third of the way into this book, a fresh twist is introduced. The pupils are sent out on internships, which gives them (and the reader) a chance to see how a working restaurant manages. This is the stagiaire challenge, named after the French for “trainee”. They’re coupled up and told they must make a “visible achievement” during their week on site.
Soma works with Hisako (former secretary to Miss Erina) at a neighborhood eatery dedicated to Western cuisine in a location near a train station. The place struggles with enormous waves of customers based around the train schedules. Meanwhile, Erina and Megumi have been sent to a fancy French place.
(The showpiece of the “Western cuisine” is a Napolitan, which is a plate of spaghetti with sauce made from ham, onion, ketchup, and soy sauce. I ‘ve constantly wondered about the way tomato sauce has been replaced with ketchup in the Japanese take on Italian food.)
Not only did the internships allow for a nice change of pace from cooking for its own benefit to looking at the details of working in the food industry, but the focus on just a few characters permitted me to not feel so lost. In the “everyone against everyone” cookoffs, it’s easy to lose track of who’s who. This provided a fresh challenge that I found more fascinating to read.
On a side note, I also found this an entertaining self-commentary on how the consequences in the series have ramped down:
This volume also contains a chapter drawn by Ryo Nakama (Isobe Isobee Monogatari) which is mostly about how hard it is to draw a cooking manga without a food expert writing it. Plus, there are two short pieces, the first about what the kids wear on their days off, the second showing previous students. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)