Été
Photo: Courtesy of Été

Japan’s Natsuko Shoji named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2022

The 27-year-old chef and owner of Été is here to inspire the next generation of young female cooks

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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After three years working at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Florilège, Natsuko Shoji went on to open her own single-table restaurant Été, where her fruit-topped cakes would eventually earn her the title of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef in 2020. Two years on, the 27-year-old chef has been presented with yet another award by 50 Best for being Asia’s Best Female Chef 2022.

Été
Photo: Été

There was a time when Shoji would only make her signature fruit cakes for people she knew in person. Presented in elegant black coffrets resembling jewellery boxes, the exclusive cakes are topped with beautifully carved seasonal fruits. Moreover, just a handful of cakes were made each month for people who wanted a delicious way to convey the utmost respect and admiration to someone special. 

Rather than catering to a mass market, Shoji wanted to create her seasonal specialities for a small group of people so that every customer she served was also someone she had a meaningful connection with. However, with every cake Shoji made, the number of people who wanted to secure one of her edible artworks only grew bigger – and her fans weren’t limited to just foodies in Japan.

Été
Photo: Courtesy of Été

Now, while Shoji’s ¥14,000 cakes still command an incredibly long waitlist, it’s a table at Été that is even harder to come by. Shoji still only caters to a maximum of six diners per evening at her invitation-only restaurant, where she serves a ten-course degustation menu of French-inspired dishes like sea urchin tart with cured egg yolk and Jinhua ham.

It may be an unconventional approach to running a restaurant, but Shoji’s commitment to her craft and resolve to do things her way has everyone from David Beckham to Takashi Murakami heaping praise on her dishes. Shoji’s achievements are an example of how creativity, when coupled with commitment, can bring boundless opportunities; this will no doubt inspire the next generation of aspiring chefs. Given all the years she has ahead of her, it looks like Été is just a taste of things to come.

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