Food Wars!: How Ryo’s Competitive Childhood Shaped Him as a Chef

In Food Wars!, Soma Yukihira may be the protagonist, but he faces stiff competition when after enrolling in the famed Totsuki culinary school. He makes a fierce rival in Takumi Aldini, though they learn to cooperate in the kitchen,, and forges a unique friendship and alliance with Erina Nakiri. But he struggled to do the same with Ryo Kurokiba.

Although Ryo was in Soma's class and sat on the Council of Ten with him by the series' end,  Ryo didn't quite become Soma's close ally. Instead, Ryo is a fiercely competitive chef whose blood runs hotter than any oven, and he clawed his way to the top with his mighty fighting spirit. He's been like that since his boyhood, making him a tough nut to crack for Soma.

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Ryo Kurokiba lived alone for years, a lonely child in a coastal town in Denmark, far away from Japan. Using his own natural talents, Ryo thrust himself into the local culinary scene, and he realized quickly that he would have to prove himself constantly to the adult chefs, who would use any excuse to reject and scorn him. Ryo was in the jungle, fighting nonstop for his budding career as a chef, and decided to rely on no one but himself.

Day after day, he competed in the kitchen, developing a fighter's grit and fueling himself with his burning desire to become #1. He eventually won over the staff of the pub where he worked, becoming the boss despite his youth. Nakiri International took note of this, and the wandering Alice Nakiri paid a visit to see what all the fuss was about. She was seeking any weapon to use in her feud with her "God Tongue" cousin Erina, and the boy wonder known as Ryo Kurokiba was a promising lead.

At first, Ryo rejected Alice, seeing her intrusion as interference. But Alice was determined, and she had a competitive drive that rivaled Ryo's own. So, she decided to put things in a way Ryo could understand: they would have a Shokugeki, and if Alice won, Ryo would become her companion and friend. Alice indeed won, and over the next few years, Ryo fought nonstop to try and top Alice, not succeeding until hundreds of duels had passed.

Alice was more intrigued than ever, and she and Ryo accepted each other as equals. They would continue to hone their skills against each other, Alice so she could defeat Erina, and Ryo so he could keep his edge -- and keep up the only cooking style he knew. For Ryo, fierce competition and survival of the fittest were the only ways to become a top chef, and he kept it up even when Alice invited him to enroll at Totsuki academy with her. By that point, though, Ryo learned to have an on/off switch. Ordinarily, he's docile and quiet, but when he's ready to get cooking, he dons his red bandana, and his fierce side emerges.

Ryo, since he grew up on the coast of Denmark, settled on European cuisine and seafood as his mainstays, and this continued throughout the story of Food Wars!. Ryo, like Megumi Tadokoro, was an expert on fish, though he was especially skilled with cooking with crustaceans like lobster. And unlike Megumi, who's noted for her gentle home-style cooking, Ryo's cooking style is more like a bullet. He has learned to concentrate strong flavor into a single dish to create an up-front assault on diners' taste buds, overwhelming them with rich and deep flavors from the very first bite.

Ryo isn't the type to meticulously unravel a dish's flavors with tricks like Soma does; he puts it all upfront, but not at the cost of depth. It may also be noted that he learned some gastronomical cooking methods from Alice, meaning he has a few extra tools at his disposal to unlock even more options to make a dish, especially if a competition involves specific themes. Ryo can easily gauge the quality of seafood from a glance or a single whiff, and he can make the most of any fish or lobster ingredient, even if it's not quite up to par.

Ryo's aggressive cooking style served him well in the Autumn Elections, where he defeated Megumi Tadokoro after a surprisingly close match, then he struck exactly even with Akira Hayama, the master of fragrance, in the 2nd round. So, Ryo faced both Akira and Soma in a three-way final match, where he placed 2nd, behind Akira. Ryo later learned the ways of making curry during his Stagiaire event, though he failed to join the rebel chef team when the time came to face off against Azami Nakiri's Central chefs. By his 2nd year at Totsuki, Ryo's talents earned him the 5th slot of the new Council of Ten, one slot above Alice and one below his new rival, Akira Hayama.

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