chefs

Japan’s Natsuko Shoji is Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2022

Steph Arnaldo
Japan’s Natsuko Shoji is Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2022

NATSUKO SHOJI. She is the first Japanese chef to be Asia's Best Female Chef for 2022.

Photo courtesy of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Academy

Shoji is the first ever Japanese chef to win the prestigious award

MANILA, Philippines – The Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy has crowned Japan’s Natsuko Shoji as this year’s Asia’s Best Female Chef, making her the first ever Japanese chef to win the prestigious title.

Shoji is acknowledged for her globally-acclaimed work at Shibuya bakeshop Été (“summer”’ in French), where she has blended “fashion, seasonality, and gastronomy” since its opening in 2014. Shoji has been lauded by international celebrities like David Beckham and renowned chefs such as René Redzepi and Ferran Adrià. 

NATSUKO SHOJI. Photo courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy

The Best Restaurants Academy described Shoji’s dishes as “elegant,” highlighting her perfectionism, attention to detail, and creative vision. Her creations “embody the artistry of Japanese cuisine.”

In 2020, Shoji was also named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef.

Chef’s kiss! Shoji’s journey to culinary stardom

Just like many successful chefs, Shoji’s love for food started at an early age. Her interest in pastry arts began as a teenager, when she had to make cream puffs for a high school assignment.

After graduating from college, Shoji decided to pursue her passion as a career – she started working as a sous chef for progressive French restaurant Florilège in Tokyo, which also ranked seventh place on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2021.

Shoji’s meticulous fruity cake creations are inspired by luxury fashion houses and designer handbags; she’s made a peach cake with the design of Chanel’s Matelassé bags, and even a strawberry cake inspired by Louis Vuitton’s Damier print, served in a sleek black box.

Photo courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy

She also prioritizes local, seasonal ingredients – for her delicate cakes, she uses Japan’s Yuki Usagi strawberries from Saga, white Shimizu Hakutou peaches from Okayama, and red Sakura Momo strawberries from Tokushima.

ETE. Photo courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy

Shoji’s creativity and skill has helped grow Été – in December 2019, the small cake shop expanded into a six-seat, exclusive, “intimate and indulgent” restaurant that serves an intricate 10-course menu of savory courses and her signature desserts. Shoji is also known for her salted tart topped with Hokkaido sea urchin and mimolette cheese; tilefish with white asparagus soup and kegeni crab meat; and Akagyu beef with truffle sauce and bone broth jus.

Photo courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy

“I’m deeply grateful for this award and would like to express my gratitude to the people who have supported me. I hope to be a role model to other female chefs in Japan and trust this award will motivate them to follow their passions,” Shoji said upon accepting the award.

Shoji will be formally awarded the title during the 10th annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony on March 29. The Asia’s Best Female Chef award is voted for by over 300 members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, whom are considered influential leaders within the global culinary industry.

Other female chefs who have won the award include the Philippines’ Margarita Forés of Cibo in 2016; Hong Kong’s May Chow in 2017; Thailand’s Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun and Garima Arora in 2018 and 2019; Korea’s Cho Hee-sook in 2020; and Shanghai-based chef DeAille Tam in 2021. – Rappler.com

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Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.