Simply put, the term washoku means traditional Japanese cooking, but the literal translation is "harmonious eating."  Because of its rich history and how integral it is to Japanese culture as a whole, washoku was awarded UNESCO's intangible cultural assets status in 2013. Just last week, the Japanese government hosted the "Washoku World Challenge — The 3rd Competition," a prestigious Japanese cuisine cooking competition for international chefs, and the coveted Gold Prize went to a culinary artist from Mexico City who wowed judges with his savory original dish.

Put on by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the "Washoku World Challenge" is still in its 3rd year of competition. Despite having only started in 2013, the event attracts thousands of applications from around the world, and only the most qualified get selected to showcase their talents. With over 89,000 Japanese restaurants outside Japan, the competition provides a platform for the best of the best  outside of Japan to be recognized internationally as having mastered the art of traditional Japanese cuisine.

This year, a total of 10 chefs were selected from around the world, representing Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, UAE, Guam, France, Romania, and South Africa. Being judged by an expert panel of six representatives of the washoku industry, the chefs prepared both an original and compulsory Japanese dish, which this year was furufoki daikon, a miso-simmered white radish. Under intense scrutiny, the chefs had 60 and 90 minutes, respectively, to finish their creations. As talented as all the chefs were, the hyper-critical judges awarded the much-coveted Gold Prize to Chef Gonzalo Santiago Bautista from Mexico City, Mexico. His original dish, a sake-steamed tilefish with egg yolk sauce and yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), was enough to blow away the panel of judges, who all had the arduous task of eating delicious food and comparing how amazing they tasted. 

No doubt Santiago's co-workers at the Japanese restaurant Restaurante Suntory Lomas in Mexico are ecstatic, and Santiago sounds pretty happy himself. After all, winning an international competition sponsored by the hosting government is a pretty big deal. "I would like to take this prize back to Mexico and work to promote Japanese cuisine,” said Santiago.


The 10 Finalists