About the Washoku World Challenge

The Washoku World Challenge is a cooking contest in which Japanese cuisine chefs from all over the world compete in technical expertise and passion for Japanese food. The contest, in its 6th year, is organized by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, for non-Japanese chefs.
To widen the door for chefs like you to share your love for Japanese cooking, this time we will be holding qualifying tournaments in five cities worldwide (Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Bangkok, and Osaka). The six chefs who pass the qualifiers will be invited to the final tournament, to be held in Tokyo on January 28th and 29th, 2019. This is an excellent opportunity for you to test your talent in washoku. Don’t miss it!

If you advance to the qualifying tournament, you will:

If you advance to the final tournament, you will:

  • Be invited to the final tournament in Japan, with travel expenses paid for
  • Be able to participate in Japanese cooking training seminars in Japan
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The basics of Japanese cuisine “Five Flavors, Five Colors, Five Ways”

A fundamental concept of Japanese cuisine is “Five Flavors, Five Colors, Five Ways (of cooking).” The five flavors are: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and UMAMI. The five colors are: red, blue/green, yellow, white, and black. The five ways of cooking are: cutting, simmering, grilling, steaming, and deep-frying. By combining these, Japanese cuisine brings out the full, mouthwatering potential of each ingredient.

Contest Theme: UMAMI

What is UMAMI?

UMAMI is the source of the savoriness of Japanese cuisine. It is one of the five basic tastes, the others being sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness, and an important component of a dish’s flavor. Recognition of UMAMI has increased in recent years, and the word has made its way into many non-Japanese dictionaries. The UMAMI taste is usually a product of some combination of inosinic acid, amino acids such as glutamic acid, and nucleic acids such as guanylic acid. In Japan, the technique of extracting UMAMI from kombu kelp and bonito flakes to create dashi broth was developed approximately 500 years ago. Many cookbooks were published in the mid-Edo period (around 1651-1745), and these strongly advocated the importance of dashi. Japan has a long history of valuing dashi highly, and its UMAMI has brought out the flavors of ingredients and played key roles in the creation of delectable dishes. The basic dashi is made with kombu kelp and bonito flakes. The combination of the glutamic acid in kombu and the inosinic acid in bonito flakes create a delicious UMAMI taste.

This Year’s Theme: IRODORI

Japanese cuisine is something to be enjoyed using all five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste). The theme for the 6th WWC is “IRODORI (coloration),” focusing on the sense of sight. Before we have a meal, we first enjoy it through our eyes. IRODORI is a key factor that affects our experience of the food, delighting us before we even take a bite and creating expectations for the taste. It is made up of five colors - red, blue/green, yellow, white, and black. When we are served a dish created and arranged on a plate with coloration in mind, we feel the pleasure of eating. In addition to UMAMI, this year’s contestants will also be tested for their IRODORI - conveying deliciousness through sight!

Send us a recipe that reflect your passion for UMAMI and your sense of IRODORI!

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Message

A Message from the Head Judge

Washoku - 5 Years after Intangible Cultural Heritage Designation

Thanks to its latitudinally long shape and four distinct seasons, Japan is blessed with abundant and diverse nature, nurturing a unique food culture. It is this culinary tradition, and the respect for nature that is integral to it, that was designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2013 as “Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese.” Five years have passed since then. When washoku made the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, there were approximately 55,000 Japanese restaurants overseas. By 2017, the number doubled to 118,000. Many of these do not have Japanese chefs, creating high demand for talented chefs of other nationalities that are skilled in making Japanese cuisine. I strongly encourage you to enter the Washoku World Challenge, an official cooking contest organized by the Japanese government, and aim to win. I hope that you will then take the initiative to mentor others and lead the field of Japanese cuisine in your country.

Head Judge
Yoshihiro Murata
Owner & Chef of Kikunoi
Chairman of Japanese Culinary Academy

Advice from the Deputy Head Judge

Balance is the Key to “IRODORI”

The Washoku World Challenge’s overall theme is UMAMI, and the subtheme for this 6th installment is IRODORI, written 彩り in Japanese kanji characters.
Why IRODORI? Because it can be the difference between a good chef and an exceptional one. Professional chefs carefully arrange food on the plate so that it is easy for customers to eat, well-balanced in proportion to the plate, and pleasing to the eye. In Japanese cuisine, food should take up around 60% of the plate. In addition, the chef should work with five colors as a base, with red and black as accent colors and keeping in mind the color of the plate, to enhance the tasty look of the dish.
In order to express both UMAMI and IRODORI, you should make the most of the natural color of each ingredient. White ingredients should look as white as possible, green/blue more vivid, and yellow, red, and black as fresh as they can be. Appreciate nature’s colors, and you will create the impression of deliciousness.
I believe that by entering the Washoku World Challenge, your skills as a Japanese chef will improve. You will strive towards finding the right IRODORI that enhances the wonderful flavors of each ingredient, a process that will surely be a big boost to your Washoku career. I sincerely hope you take this challenge.

Deputy Head Judge
Masahiro Nakata
Director of Taiwa Gakuen Education Inc.
President of Kyoto Culinary Art College