Fashionable Fusion: This Japanese Culinary Wonder, Who Creates Cakes Based on Luxury Handbags, Has Just Been Named Asia’s Best Female Chef - LA Wine & Dine

Natsuko Shoji of Été in Tokyo will be honored as part of the 10th annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards next month.

Japanese chef Natsuko Shoji of Été in Tokyo has been deemed as the best female chef in Asia for this year. Voted for by the 300-plus members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, the award provides an opportunity for successful women to be celebrated, whose dedication, skills and creativity set new standards in gastronomic excellence.

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Shoji will be honored as part of the 10th annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, broadcast globally on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Facebook page and YouTube channel on March 29, 2002.

“Natsuko Shoji’s elegant dishes reveal her perfectionism, attention to detail and creative vision, making her a worthy recipient of the Asia’s Best Female Chef Award,” says William Drew, director of content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. “With her appreciation for seasonality, coupled with her brilliant aptitude for blending fashion and gastronomy, the chef’s creations embody the artistry of Japanese cuisine.”

Shoji’s interest in the culinary arts began in her teen years after making cream puffs for a high school assignment. After graduation, Shoji began her career at Florilège, the progressive French-inspired Tokyo restaurant that has been a high-flier on recent Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants lists. Learning alongside Florilège’s chef and owner Hiroyasu Kawate, Shoji was promoted to sous chef within three years.

In 2014, Shoji opened Été (“summer” in French), a modest tart shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood. The cake shop earned global attention almost immediately. A year later she transformed the space into a four-seat, invitation-only restaurant, further raising her profile in Tokyo’s competitive dining scene.

Drawing inspiration from fashion houses and designer handbags, Chef Shoji developed a line of signature cakes, including her sought-after strawberry cake that takes its cues from Louis Vuitton’s Damier print, or the peach cake that evokes the distinctive stitching on Chanel’s Matelassé bags. With a deep appreciation for seasonality, each cake contains Japan’s prized fruit (Yuki Usagi strawberries from Saga, red Sakura Momo strawberries from Tokushima, or white Shimizu Hakutou peaches from Okayama) and is presented in a black box designed to resemble a jewelry box.

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Été earned acclaim from both celebrities (David Beckham) and renowned chefs, including René Redzepi and Ferran Adrià. Shoji’s status as one of the culinary world’s emerging stars was confirmed when she was named the 2020 recipient of the Asia’s Best Pastry Chef Award.

In December 2019, Été expanded to a six-seat restaurant, allowing Shoji to welcome diners into her exclusive eatery and personally serve her guests. Intimate and indulgent, Shoji’s intricately crafted 10- course menu demonstrates her meticulous approach, respect for ingredients and creative execution.

Embracing savory courses as well as her aforementioned desserts, Été’s signature dishes include a salted tart topped with Hokkaido sea urchin and mimolette cheese, delicate tilefish paired with a white asparagus soup and complemented with kegani crab meat, as well as Akagyu beef with a truffle sauce and bone broth jus.

“I’m deeply grateful for this award and would like to express my gratitude to the people who have supported me,” says Shoji, accepting the honor. “I hope to be a role model to other female chefs in Japan and trust this award will motivate them to follow their passions. I would also like to honor the other chefs who have mentored me throughout my career and inspired me with their craftsmanship and artistry.”

Honoring female chefs across Asia, previous recipients of the Asia’s Best Female Chef Award include our own Margarita Forés (2016); Duangporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava from Thailand (2013); Lanshu Chen from Taiwan (2014); Hong Kong’s Vicky Lau (2015); May Chow from Hong Kong (2017); Bongkoch ‘Bee’ Satongun (2018) and Garima Arora (2019), both based in Thailand; Korean chef Cho Hee-sook (2020) and Shanghai-based DeAille Tam (2021).

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