Culinary juggernaut Japan adds one more feather to its cap as Osaka-based Yasuhiro Fujio emerged victorious in S. Pellegrino’s annual global talent scout competition. Burnt Ends’ head chef Jake Kellie who represented Southeast Asia meanwhile wrapped up the top three alongside Marcin Popielarz of East Europe.
“I’m a little bit scared because I’m going to have to work even harder,” said Fujio on stage as he accepted the accolade. “Holding the title is a big responsibility. What I’m going to do from now on is [to] turn that fear into courage.”
The competition — now in its third year — involved multiple rounds and local face-offs that saw over 2,000 aspiring young chefs duking it out for the top title. The finale was held in Milan over two days as chefs from 21 regions presented their signature dishes.
The results were deliberated by a jury comprising of the biggest names in gastronomy. This ranged from Virgilio Martínez, Margarita Forés, Brett Graham, Annie Féolde, Dominique Crenn, Ana Roš and Paul Pairet.
In the end, it was Fujio’s dish named ‘Across the Sea’ that won the judges over. In it, he used ayu — a river fish that can only live in the purest of waters. “It is a precious ingredient that reminds us of the way of living, [or] ‘integration with nature’ which has been in our soul since ancient times in Japan,” explained Fujio in an interview on Fine Dining Lovers.
While winning the title is no small feat, Fujio is no stranger to awards. After all, he hails from La Cime — a contemporary French-Japanese restaurant placed comfortably on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at the 17th spot. It also has two Michelin stars to its name.
Still, past winners have been set on a path towards greater success. Kirk Westaway for instance, who represented Southeast Asia in 2015 has gone on to clinch one Michelin star for Jaan.
Other awards doled out that night included the Fine Dining Lovers People’s Choice Award where the public was invited to vote for their favourite candidate. While 19 out of the 21 contests comprised men, here a female chef, Elizabeth Puquio Landeo from South America reigned on top as the winner after over 30,000 participants cast their votes.