Food Wars! The Second Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Food Wars! The Second Plate ?
Well, well, well, look who's back – Hisako Arato, Erina's erstwhile aide. After fleeing in shame when she lost to Hayama, Hisako has returned for the new story arc, the Stagiaire, as Soma's partner. In this first part of their internship/work-study course, Totsuki students are sent in pairs to restaurants around the city, and in order to pass, they must not only do their jobs well, but also make their marks on the establishments that have taken them in. Depending on the eatery, that “mark” will vary, and this is an excellent chance for Hisako to realize that she's a lot more than someone's number two. Perhaps she might also form some opinions on Soma untainted by Erina's personality. She and Soma are sent to a small Western restaurant currently under the guidance and ownership of its third generation, the grandson of the original owner-chef. Most of his staff has been there since his father's stewardship, and they're very devoted to both the family and the restaurant. The only problem is that times and the neighborhood have changed, and suddenly instead of a comfortable local place, the restaurant has become a destination for bullet train travelers. These new customers aren't there for the atmosphere and their favorite dishes; they want to eat and get out. As a result, the staff is beside themselves trying to cope without changing the place they love.
It's very clear why Soma and Hisako have been sent here. The owner is fully overwhelmed and in desperate need of Soma's cool head to get things running efficiently, while Hisako needs a chance to get over both herself and her dislike of someone she's barely interacted with – basically to overcome the worldview Erina inculcated in her. She also needs to realize that she has more worth than she knows, especially once she stops comparing herself to others. Yes, she worked with the Erina Nakiri, but that doesn't mean that she can't learn from someone else. Yes, she's a great chef, but that doesn't preclude learning to be good at the other parts of running a restaurant. Eventually she has to stand on her own two feet, and she needs to decide whether that will still be behind Erina, beside her, or maybe even trying to walk ahead of her. Before this internship, she might not have considered that possibility, but working with others in a professional setting and learning to overcome the idea of superiority that only cooking with Erina and other Totsuki elites instilled in her gives her a better idea of who she can become.
For his part, Soma's work over the week of his first stagiaire gives him the chance to explore the idea of what other chefs want for their food. At first he sees the newfound popularity of the restaurant as the ultimate win – so many new people to feed! But as he works there and watches the owner, he comes to realize that volume may not be what's most important to everyone. The crowds may be good for him and his dad at Yukihira, but this is a different kind of family business, one drenched in regional nostalgia, as we see when Hisako suggests that reducing the menu might be a way to keep things moving once she and Soma leave. Rather than quantity, Soma realizes, it's familiarity that this place needs, and by suggesting that they switch to reservations-only and thus eliminate the cranky speed-eaters, he shows his understanding of what's missing from the place: that old neighborhood favorite feel. By looking beyond the idea of “success” that he has, Soma is able to suggest a solution that suits a different theory of restauranteurship, thus showing his own growth.
Of course, these two aren't the only ones out on assignment: Megumi and Erina have been sent together to a fine French establishment. I can't help but feel that Erina failed to learn her particular lesson and thus made it a bit harder for Megumi to complete her task. The chef at this place is volatile and lordly, presumably intended to help Erina rein in her raging ego. Instead, she stands up to the chef and basically takes over, refusing to wash dishes and pulling one of the meanest tricks imaginable in the cooking world: taking over someone else's kitchen. While she does undeniably make her mark using her superb sense of taste to improve dishes, she fails to learn any new lessons, such as how to get along with others in a high-tension situation or how to listen. I do hope this comes back to bite her later, especially since her antagonizing of the chef made it harder for Megumi to stand up and make her own serving suggestions, which she came up with from washing the dishes by analyzing what was left on the plates. While this did ultimately work in Megumi's favor since she had to work especially hard to stand up for herself, she also could have done so with much less stress had Erina not made things more difficult for both Totsuki girls with her attitude.
In Erina's defense, she does later offer Megumi a ride home and makes an attempt to be nice to her, and we know from a flashback that Hisako is equally to blame for Erina's deficiency when it comes to interacting with others; she felt that it was never her place, even as little girls, to be a friend. Hopefully Hisako, and possibly Megumi as well, can now help to mend that and give Erina a friend group that will break down her walls. We may see a bit of that paralleled as the stagiaire continues next week – someone's been keeping an eye on Soma, and he's not necessarily going to be thrilled to work with him.
Food Wars! The Second Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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