Image source: 『食戟のソーマ』TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

The curriculum at cooking academy in Food Wars! The Third Plate has changed in such a way to benefit all the students. Now they all get training from elite chiefs and have to follow their recipes right down to the letter. But, is method the best way to make culinary masterpieces and great chiefs? Perhaps the previous cutthroat food battle-centered curriculum really did more for the students than initially let on? Maybe the food battles weren’t about battles as much as fostering creativity.

In Food Wars! The Third Plate, the headmaster of the elite cooking school Tōtsuki Academy has been replaced. The new headmaster, Azami Nakiri, has a vision for the school where the students all follow the cooking style he deems worthy. But, not all the students want to fall in line with the Academy’s new policy. And our hero, Soma Yukihira, has stood up to the new headmaster’s polices by taking on one of his underlings.

Image source: 『食戟のソーマ』TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

But, why is Soma frustrated with Tōtsuki Academy’s new curriculum? Before Azami took over the position of headmaster at Tōtsuki Academy, the curriculum was cutthroat. It worked on the idea of survival of the fittest through competition, challenges, and the ever-looming threat of being expelled for underperforming. It’s not the best environment to learn about the culinary arts. But, it allows for a certain amount of academic freedom.

Image source: 『食戟のソーマ』TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

However, Azami’s new curriculum has a certain amount of logic behind it. It creates a uniform cooking standard for the students to follow. In other words, it teaches the students a solid base to work off of rather than going off and doing their own thing. This sounds nice since the Academy is a place for students to develop their culinary skills. But, in order to truly develop and expand their palate, the students need a firm grasp of the basics. Thus, all Azami is providing is a high quality curriculum for the students. The students at the Academy now have a mentally safe environment to learn and develop their culinary skills under Azami’s tutelage. However, when we look beyond the surface elements of what Azami is trying to do, we see a sinister plan.

Azami’s plan isn’t about teaching the students at the Academy the fundamentals of cooking and then letting them experiment. What he’s trying to do is indoctrinate the students into following his vision of the culinary arts, where the perfect dish is what he deems as perfect. This is why he’s eliminated every club and student society. Clubs breed creativity—thus giving the chance for students to stray from his prescribed course. He has, in essence, created his own miniature dictatorship or cult and the students are his loyal subjects. However, the worst aspect of Azami’s plan isn’t the uniformity or brainwashing. It effectively eliminates the need for the Academy’s iconic shokugeki food battles.

To this point, the food battles appeared as no more than just a means for students to settle their disputes or as seasonal competitions. Yet, there’s a far deeper reason for the battles: It breeds creativity. Consider it in these terms: If we follow the new Academy standard, when two students have a dispute and enter a food battle, what’s the point? They’re going to either prepare the same meal or two separate meals based on the curriculum’s standards. That means there’d never be any variety in the meals in terms of taste, smell, texture, and all the other things that go into making a delicious meal. So, all that can be judged is who’s preparing the meal faster and in accordance to the manual.

Image source: 『食戟のソーマ』TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

In turn, the Academy’s old method is entirely based on experimentation because of the constant competitions. We see why this is so in the last two episodes of the series. Soma challenges one of Azami’s underlings named Etsuya Eizan to a food battle. There are two things at play here, though. The first is, Etsuya paid off the judges and the second is, even without the bribe, the judges believe Etsuya is the superior chief. Why? Because he’s in line with Azami’s vision. Thus, Etsuya prepares his meal in the prescribed, but thorough, method. Which is to say the “perfect” way to cook the ingredients.

Image source: 『食戟のソーマ』TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

Soma, on the other hand, uses the novel idea of making dumplings with chicken wings as the wrapping and a special sauce. It’s a different way to look at a dumpling recipe. However, if Soma was following the new Academy standard, all he would have done is make the exact same meal as Etsuya—no thought put into it, just act like a robot and produce the same thing.

The reason why Soma has to experiment, though, is the key to the entire food battle. Remember, this is a competition and Soma wants to defeat Etsuya. But, in order to do that Soma has to go one step further than him. He needs have to come up with an ingenious idea that astonish, astound, and enthralls the judges. However, making the same recipe or some other prescribed meal doesn’t do any of that. It’s literally following a rote method. By experimenting, though, Soma is able to come up with novel ideas. With the dumplings he made, it’s described as really strong flavors clashing with each other. So, he needs to find something to smooth out the flavor. His answer is ketchup.

Now, if there was no food battle could Soma have stumbled on this idea? Possibly. Unfortunately Azami’s methods discourage this, hence discouraging completion and true creativity.

So, even though the Academy’s curriculum before Azami may have been cutthroat, but it actually provided an opportunity for the students to transform the culinary arts. Because of that, the students at the Academy are able to become elite chiefs.

Food Wars! The Third Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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