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

The Food Battles in Food Wars! The Third Plate all have a bit of cooking philosophy mixed into them. The latest Food Battle, though, is a clash of what a good meal truly is.

After our hero Soma Yukihira beat one of elite student chiefs at Tōtsuki Academy, the schools Food Battles have been reinstated—until the last of the rabble are subdued, anyway. In the interim, classes at the Academy resume as scheduled. And the top student chief, Eishi Tsukasa, teaches one class Soma is in. In a twist of cruel fate Eishi challenges Soma to a Food Battle. And if Eishi wins, Soma becomes his assistant.

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

The fact Eishi’s impressed with Soma’s cooking skills is nothing to be scoffed at. It means Soma is doing something right. Even the idea of Soma becoming Eishi’s assistant isn’t a horrible prospect, as it’d allow Soma to learn more cooking techniques. However, for Eishi it’s not just about having a skilled assistant. Eishi wants Soma so he can essentially bring him into the fold of “true” culinary beauty and expand the principle across the world. Of course, Soma wants nothing to do with that.

But, how and why does Eishi want to expand the idea of “true” culinary beauty? Much like the new Headmaster at the Academy, Eishi sees the culinary arts as something that’s to be centralized. That all cooks and chiefs should follow a standard recipe that brings out the best quality of all the ingredients. In other words, he wants every person to eat the best possible meal. And the only way Eishi sees this coming to fruition is by eradicating every restaurant that don’t meet his—and by proxy the Headmasters—standard. It’s a bold endeavor to say the least and there’s some beauty in the idea and philosophy. It would mean every restaurant is serving its customers pristine food all the time.

However, Eishi’s philosophy calls into question a number issues. Top on the list is how he’s going to crush every restaurant in the world. He needs metaphorical and literal foot soldiers to browbeat owners of restaurants into submission. Eishi addresses this by saying that’s the point of the Academy’s new organization called Central. It’s to cultivate those foot soldiers and have the top student chiefs be the generals. This, alone, is fairly chilling plan since it removes the student’s agency when it comes the culinary arts. They’re no longer students, but nearly mindless automatons bent on one thing: create a culinary utopia in the Academy’s Headmasters and Eishi’s design.

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

But, there’s one other major flaw in Eishi’s culinary utopia. Every customer at a restaurant has a different sense of what is and isn’t a good meal. This isn’t just relegated to the taste of a meal, but also includes the environment and memories associated with it. For instance, we may associate a certain meal with a pleasant memory. And the memory heightens our regard for a meal. We actually see this late in the second season of Food Wars! while Soma is on his chief internship. The regular customers at the restaurant Soma is interning at want a certain tasting hamburger meal. Once the meal is replicated, though, the customers are delighted and find the meal beyond enjoyable. It’s an X factor no perfectly prepared meal can capture—and Soma recognizes this.

Food Wars! Shows Us How Competition Breeds Creativity

This is why Eishi and Soma’s Food Battle is so critical to Soma’s development. By accepting Eishi’s challenge, Soma’s putting everything he believes in on the line. And the same is true with Eishi. While this may seem like a battle of their two egos at first, it’s actually not. The Soma and Eishi aren’t fighting for some cause or proving their culinary skills are superior. It’s a battle of philosophy: satisfying your own ego (Eishi) versus satisfying your customer base (Soma). Unfortunately, Soma isn’t victorious.

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

Does Soma’s loss then mean he’s somehow mistaken? That what’s truly important for a meal isn’t your customer’s needs, but the method in which it’s prepared? Surprisingly, the answer is no. In fact, Eishi rescinds his offer of letting Soma become his assistant. It’s because Eishi fundamentally recognizes Soma will keep experimenting and keep finding new ways to satisfy the people who eat his meals, even if he’s keeping a close eye on him. It’s literally something Eishi can’t control and can’t stop. So rather than bind Soma, Eishi lets him do his own thing.

Behind that mindset of Eishi’s, though, lies a diabolical plan. It’s essentially to slowly chip away at Soma until he eventually gives in to his and the Headmasters ideals. And that means reorganizing Central in a way that will take away Soma’s will to fight.

But, like any good hero, Soma is going to fight all the way through and show his cooking philosophy is what the Academy needs.

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

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