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Gia's List: 9 Chefs You Wish Your Local Diner Would Hire

by Gia Manry,

Everybody loves a tasty meal, and that includes fictional characters. Japan seems to have a particular flare for tasty cuisines...even if they sometimes "tweak" them (anybody ever had fried shrimp and corn pizza?). This food fondness is frequently reflected in Japanese entertainment; sometimes the shows themselves revolve around food, sometimes just a character— or a character's martial arts style —but always, tasty food abounds. (And sometimes not-so-tasty food, but this week's survey will cover that topic.)

9. Najika Kazami (Kitchen Princess)
She's only a chef-in-training, but Najika's devotion to the culinary arts is second only to her devotion to the "Flan Prince," a young man who saved her from drowning and gifted her the titular custard dish, along with a spoon from a special school for young chefs. Don't write her off as a romantic wannabe, though: Najika is a determined young woman with a natural knack for cooking. She made it into the school, but as an orphan, she didn't have parents to pay her way, nor a trust fund or any other financial back-ups: she had to work to get there. (And if you think falling in love with one of the school director's sons made her school life any easier, well, you're wrong.)

8.. Yusuke Ono (Antique Bakery)
This classically-trained pastry chef may have been booted out of all his past restaurants, but it was never because of his pastry-making. (It's just that his coworkers would inevitably start to fight over him. Even the straight ones.) Ono's pastries are always pleasing to the eye, and they also make the titular bakery's mostly-female clientele practically dissolve into puddles of happiness, which Ono might enjoy if he wasn't more or less terrified of women. However, Ono doesn't typically divert his skills into day-to-day cooking, preferring to bounce around bars and restaurants in the evenings and saving his hands for his daily pastry-making.

7. Sasami (Tenchi Muyo!)
In one manga iteration of the pigtailed alien princess, Sasami actually enters and wins a cooking competition against other child chefs, despite one competitor's attempts to sabotage her work by injecting an ingredient with MSG. But the vast majority of Sasami's cooking takes place in the Masaki home, and it's pretty fortunate that she's a great cook despite being the youngest person in the house: most of the zany residents in Tenchi's home could barely tackle a microwave, much less a stovetop. (And no, super scientist Washu isn't an exception. Sure, she'd figure out how to use the microwave with no problem, but she'd also probably trick it out to serve as a time-travel device or something, too.)

6. Sunako Nakahara (The Wallflower)
Like Sasami, Sunako takes on the role of household chef out of sheer necessity: the five pretty boys who live with her are useless in the kitchen. In their first attempt to create sustenance, they prove almost as terrifying as Sunako's best friend, an anatomical model/skeleton. It's just as well that they stay out of the kitchen after that: whenever any of these "creatures of lights" gets near Sunako, she has a nosebleed (and more often than not, faints). The only reason Sunako beats out Sasami is that she cooks with a bit more...pizazz. Let's just say that horror fanatic Sunako knows how to handle a carving knife.

5. Azuma Kazuma (Yakitate Japan)
Like Ono, Azuma Kazuma isn't an all-around chef: he specializes in making bread...and not much else; people tend to underestimate him at first because he seems like such a simpleton. But the breads this simpleton makes! A green turtle bread made with no dyes whatsoever, a croissant made with 324 layers, breads made in microwaves and rice cookers...and the reactions that the breads inspire are a form of entertainment in and of themselves, especially to the series' other characters. Family, friends, and world-famous culinary critics have been known to see visions, visit their dead relatives, and even spend time in heaven upon eating one of Kazuma's breads.

4. Ukyo Kuonji (Ranma 1/2)
It's not every teenager who can master the art of okonomiyaki— a pancake dish cooked on a griddle in front of the customer, usually consisting of batter and various meat, veggies, and sauces (hence the dish's frequent comparisons to pizza). Ukyo, however, is not only an expert chef, but an expert martial artist who uses her okonomiyaki spatula as a weapon. As an added bonus, she has a mind for business, operating her own restaurant: Ucchan's. Unfortunately, Ukyo's domestic tendencies clash with her tomboyish personality, and she tends to be the most discounted of Ranma Saotome's various fiancées.

3. Liu Mao Hsing (Cooking Master Boy)
If your mother was the greatest chef in 19th century China, would you ride her coattails— or would you travel throughout the country to earn your own reputation as Supreme Chef? 13-year-old Mao chooses the latter, traveling from Szechuan Province to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong with his special tastebuds (he remembers every food he's ever eaten, along with its ingredients) to improve his cooking skills and defeat the evil members of the Dark Cooking Society. Yes, in the world of Cooking Master Boy there's an underground organization devoted to controlling China by way of its food. Maybe that's why Mao takes it all so seriously.

2. Komatsu (Toriko)
As you can probably tell from his lack of shounen manga-style muscles, Komatsu isn't the protagonist of his story— that's the titular Toriko, of course — but he IS the only six-star chef on this list. In a world where manly men love the challenge of finding (or hunting down) rare ingredients, Komatsu accompanies Gourmet Hunter Toriko on his journeys and cooks meals for the voracious hunter while collecting ingredients for his complex and unusual dishes, which he creates to the delight of any who eat them. Although sometimes he gets so blissful about his new ingredients that he forgets to leave any for later cooking...

1. Sanji (One Piece)
The Straw Hat Pirates' chef, 21-year-old Sanji, is the cooking equivalent of a businessman who grew up poor: having known what it's like to starve, the professional cook will never refuse anyone a meal. Though he'd prefer it if all of his customers were attractive women. He's also incredibly devoted to his craft...less in the sense that he goes to great length to learn new skills or ingredients, and more because he (usually) refuses to fight with his hands because they're his most important tools. Instead, he just kicks. Setting aside the combat, though, Sanji is always able to whip up a meal with speed and style, and yes, it's always tasty to boot.

Each list is accompanied by a new reader poll, as well as the results from last week's poll.

The new poll: In another matched set of list and survey, this week we want to know which anime "chef" is the worst cook...or to put it more simply, whose food would you least like to eat? Give us your answer here!

The previous poll: Maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that ANN readers' favorite rich anime character is one who probably flaunts it the least: obsessive detective L from Death Note earned a full 20% of the vote! Coming in a close second with 18% is Tamaki Suou, the eligible sort-of bachelor who heads the Ouran High School Host Club, followed by Tomoyo Daidoji, best friend extraordinaire in Card Captor Sakura. Here are the complete results:

  1. L (Death Note) - 20%
  2. Tamaki Suou (Ouran High School Host Club) - 18%
  3. Tomoyo Daidoji (Card Captor Sakura) - 16.2%
  4. Roger Smith (The Big O) - 14.3%
  5. Kyouya Ootori (Ouran High School Host Club) - 11.4%
  6. Nagi Sanzenin (Hayate the Combat Butler) - 10.1%
  7. Usami Akihiko (Junjo Romantica) - 3.3%
  8. Dorothy Catalonia (Gundam Wing) - 3%
  9. Keigo Atobe (Prince of Tennis) - 2.3%
  10. Yoshitaka Nakabayashi (He Is My Master) - 1.5%

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