Japanese chef Natsuko Shoji of Été in Tokyo has been announced as the recipient of the 2020 winner of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef Award, sponsored by Valrhona, ahead of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants virtual awards ceremony on 24 March.
Shoji opened her exclusive, invitation-only four-seat omakase restaurant in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighbourhood in 2014, recently expanding to larger premises opening up the restaurant to the public where they can also watch her hard at work in her cake lab crafting her fashion-inspired creations.
Chef Shoji has developed a line of fashion-inspired and fruit-topped cakes highlighting Japanese specialities like (Yuki Usagi strawberries from Saga, red Sakura Momo strawberries from Tokushima, or white Shimizu Hakutou peaches from Okayama). She includes big-name chefs like René Redzepi and Ferran Adrià among her guests.
Speaking of her win on her Instagram account the Florilège trained chef said;
“What motivates me to keep pursuing my dream to be a great chef? Throughout my career as a chef, I get asked often about how I feel being a female chef in a male-dominated industry by many of my peers. Many people think that this kind of job only fits for men because it’s not easy, it’s challenging, and it’s physically gruelling, and that women are supposed to just stay home and do housework. This is the perception that I want to change. I believe that as long as you put your heart and soul into what you do, no matter how difficult it is, it can be achieved and it can bring a high level of fulfilment. I have loved every single bit of being a female chef and it will be my biggest achievement to have been perceived as equal as those great male chefs in the industry.” - @natsuko.ete
Speaking of the award William Drew, Director of Content at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, said: “Natsuko Shoji’s fashion-inspired, elegant creations reveal her perfectionism, attention to detail and creative vision. With her appreciation for seasonality and reputation for uncompromising quality, the chef’s sculpted, fruit-topped cakes embody the artistry of Japanese cuisine.”
Previous winners of the accolade include Fabrizio Fiorani (2019), Nicolas Lambert (2018), Kazutoshi Narita (2017), Cheryl Koh (2016), Hidemi Sugino (2015) and Janice Wong (2014 and 2013).