Japan to set up certification program for ‘washoku’ chefs overseas

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.

Genres such as sushi and tempura are already massive industries worldwide, but some purists turn their noses up at the result: Sushi in Moscow may arrive served with mayonnaise while dishes in many “Japanese” restaurants in Paris may be slammed on the table by Chinese staff.

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.

  • At Times Mistaken

    I’ve seen at least one objection to the statement in this “article” that “dishes in many “Japanese” restaurants in Paris may be slammed on the table by Chinese staff.” Writing via Twitter, Patrick Knill counters that “poor service and bad food need pointing out, racial origins of staff don’t. It’s a lazy stereotype” and I tend to agree.

  • Tyson Misleh

    How do you go about gaining your certification?