On Saturday, February 1, 2014 the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston and the Japan-America Society of Houston co-hosted the 2014 Houston Bento Contest Final Battle at H-E-B at Bunker Hill and I-10. In the third year of the contest the consulate was happy to receive many excellent submissions as awareness of Japanese bento, an artistically arranged and well-balanced packed lunch, grows.
Deputy Consul-General Takahiko Watabe acted as a judge for the contest and delivered welcoming remarks. He asked the audience to join Japan in celebrating Japanese cuisine’s recent designation as a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage, “Washoku was recognized for its respect for sustainability and commitment to utilize local products. The Japanese lunchbox, which inspired this event, packs all of those elements to capture the essence of washoku in one small box.”
The six finalists were given 10 minutes to create a bento with an assortment of HEB food items that were laid out at work stations. Mr. JJ Naoki, President & CEO of Satake USA, Inc.; Mr. Glen Gondo, Gondo Company, Inc.; Deputy Consul-General Takahiko Watabe; and Vice-Consul Yuki Ochiai were set with the difficult task of judging the six bento.
The following contestants competed at the bento-packing battle after winning a preliminary category:
Eileen Gu: Most Kawaii
Jennifer Kennedy: Most Healthy
Makiko Matsumoto: Most Delicious
Yuko Ouchi: Most Traditional
William Santee: Most Creative
Derek Yeung: Most Comical
After much deliberation, the judges announced Makiko Matsumoto as the Bento-Box Champion.
Following the packing contest Mrs. Sayaka Stephens gave a brief lecture on one of Japanese cuisine’s most important ingredients: miso, a fermented seasoning. Next guests had the chance to sample some of the miso products introduced by Ms. Stephens and try their hand at making onigiri, or rice-balls. The Consulate looks forward to holding the 4th Annual Houston Bento contest after the increased attendance and number of excellent submissions in the third year.
Link to the contestants preliminary and final bento, and recipe.
Special thanks go to H-E-B’s Sushiya, Satake USA Incorporated, and Mr. Glen Gondo.