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“Why did I leave Japan? I guess it’s because I had nothing to do back home,” says Paris-based chef Sota Atsumi as he takes a coffee break from prepping scallops for his dinner guests. “I didn’t study much, so enrolling in a university was not an option. I wanted to be a professional snowboarder but I gave up due to an injury.”

Atsumi, recently described by food critics as one of a recent surge of “rebellious French chefs,” took the recommendation of one of his high school teachers to go to France to be a chef.

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