This month on ‘Culinary Journeys’, CNN profiles one of Japan’s most exciting chefs, Natsuko Shoji. Crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef earlier this year at the annual gathering of the 50 Best Restaurants in Asia, she is the owner of Été – a pastry shop and restaurant in Tokyo which combines modern French cooking with fresh and seasonal Japanese ingredients. This special 30-minute episode explores the elements – both in and outside the kitchen – that made Shoji the star she is today, and learns how she plans to navigate the future as a new generation of Japanese chef.

Shoji is known for her attention to aesthetics, and often incorporates her other passions – art and fashion – into her culinary process. This homage to the creative industries is evident at Été, too. The restaurant’s interior showcases the craftsmanship of a host of renowned artists, including pieces by MADSAKI – an artist with whom Shoji has collaborated for several years. CNN joins the pair as they catch up at MADSAKI’s studio in southern Tokyo.
There’s no doubt that Shoji’s journey to the top has been challenging. She was helped along the way by her mentors, one of whom is Shohei Shimono, chef and owner of the French restaurant à nu. Shimono reflects on first meeting Shoji when she was just a high school student, and on her early years as his trainee. CNN then charts Shoji’s steady rise in the culinary world – and the setbacks she faced along the way – culminating in her opening her own pastry shop in 2014. ‘Culinary Journeys’ also hears from Shoji’s mother – one of her biggest champions.
Being a female chef in Japan’s male dominated culinary world isn’t easy. It’s even tougher for female sushi chefs to break through – something Fumie Miyoshi knows all too well. Despite the odds, Miyoshi has become one of the most recognized sushi chefs in the upscale Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo. The programme brings Shoji and Miyoshi together, and the two bond over shared experiences in the industry.
Finally, CNN hears from one of Shoji’s role models: chef Vicky Lau, who currently serves as the head chef of the two Michelin star restaurant Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong. The pair catch up to discuss their past collaborations and future career visions. For Shoji, that includes creating more awareness around what it takes to excel in the food industry, and visiting her old high school to help guide a new generation of aspiring chefs.
Culinary Journeys trailer:
Culinary Journeys images:
Culinary Journeys microsite:
Airtimes for 30-minute special:
Sunday, 12th June at 9:30am12:30pm and 6:00pm HKT
Monday, 13th June at 5:30am HKT