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Let’s discuss Japanese food sold overseas

This week’s featured article

KYODO, STAFF REPORT

The government plans to adopt an ambitious certification system for chefs of Japanese cuisine, or washoku, in a bid to guarantee quality at establishments that purport to serve Japanese fare overseas.

The program will require would-be washoku chefs to attend some degree of training in Japan, ranging from a short course of a couple of days to an apprenticeship-like service of several years to give them a grounding in food preparation and customer service.

The agriculture ministry is now formulating a way to authenticate chefs at Japanese restaurants abroad. It wants to award certificates recognizing factors such as a chef’s understanding of the food culture and how he or she handles raw seafood. It might also rate them for their manner toward customers, whether they welcome them correctly, and how they present a dish, according to the officials.

Washoku was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. The chef certification system is expected to begin this fiscal year. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will select a private body to manage the certification system through a public offering, and restaurants and cooking colleges will train and provide lessons to chefs under the guideline, officials said.

Foreign chefs who have worked two years or longer in Japan will likely be given “gold” status, while those who have studied at cooking colleges for at least six months will likely be ranked “silver,” followed by “bronze” for those who have received training for a shorter period. Restaurants where they work would be free to use the certifications as a mark of quality.

“By enhancing their understanding of washoku, we hope to raise the quality of Japanese restaurants overseas and expand exports of Japanese farm products and seasonings,” a ministry official said.

As of last July, there were around 88,700 restaurants registered as Japanese restaurants globally, up sharply from roughly 55,100 in 2013, according to the ministry.

First published in The Japan Times on Jan. 19.

Warm up

One-minute chat about cooking.

Game

Collect words related to food, e.g., organic, supermarket, diet.

New words

1) purport: appear to be or do something, especially falsely; e.g., “He purports to be from the council, but I have my doubts.”

2) authenticate: to prove something is true or genuine; e.g., “You should get that painting authenticated.”

3) intangible: unable to be touched or grasped, with no physical presence; e.g., “Emotions such as love and hate are intangible.”

Guess the headline

Japan to set up c_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ program for ‘w_ _ _ _ _ _’ chefs overseas

Questions

1) What will the program involve for washoku chefs working overseas?

2) When will the certification system start?

3) What is the aim of this system, according to the ministry?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think is the “taste of Japan”?

2) Have you been to a washoku restaurant abroad? How was it?

3) Do you think this system will help improve the quality of washoku in other countries?

Reference

空前の和食ブームに2013年のユネスコ無形文化遺産登録が拍車をかけ、和食は今やグローバルビジネスの一大産業となりつつあります。

海外でも寿司をはじめとした和食がすっかり定着している印象がありますが、その味はレストランによって日本の味を守っているものや現地の味覚に合わせてオリジナリティーを出したものなど様々でしょう。

今回の資格制度はよりクオリティーの高い和食を広めていく一歩となるでしょうが、世界それぞれの土地で独自の変化を遂げた”海外の和食”をどう評価するかはなかなか大変かもしれません。

いずれにしても、世界中のあちこちで日本の味が愛され、”美味しい”の声が広がってくことを願いたいものです。

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