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Soma Yukihira's Entire Backstory Explained

Soma Yukihira is on his way to becoming the greatest chef in all of Japan ... maybe the greatest chef in the whole world. But first, he has to live through high school — and not just any old high school. Soma attends Totsuki Academy, likely the finest cooking school in all of Japan, infamous for its elite standards. Alongside his loyal and talented friends, he quickly rises to the top of the class. Maintaining that status, however, is a full-time job.

What's behind Soma's love of cooking? Where did he learn to inspire those around him to reach for new heights? How does he innovate such mouthwatering dishes? And most importantly, what does peanut butter and dried squid taste like? From his beginnings in his family's restaurant to the halls of Totsuki Academy, this is one shonen hero who never stops managing to surprise. Today, we're breaking down the back story of the food-loving, quick-thinking, indomitable hero of Totsuki Academy, Soma Yukihira.

Humble beginnings

Prior to the beginning of Food Wars, Soma's life was a simple one. His family owned Restaurant Yukihira, a beloved diner in the Sumiredori Shopping District in Japan. A warm, inviting place, owned by warm, inviting people, this down-home spot had been serving comfort food for generations. The Yukihiras even served as champions of the district's small, family-owned culture: When needed, they'd helped chase off big-time developers looking to demolish the smaller, more unique restaurants in the area.

Soma's parents, his father Joichiro and mother Tamako, loved their son deeply and helped give him a sturdy, if humble start in life. Sure, restaurant work is tough, with scant few breaks scattered among its long hours — all of which, of course, are filled on one's feet. But Soma wouldn't trade his upbringing for anything in the world. While Restaurant Yukihira was nothing flashy, it helped lay the foundation Soma would build upon in becoming a great chef.

Growing up in the restaurant business

Though Restaurant Yukihira favored simple, familiar fare, its quality was utterly world-class. The meticulous care taken with ingredients and the cooking process shone through every bite of a Yukihira dish — no detail was too small to ignore. Perhaps it was exposure to such delicious food right from the very start that inspired Soma to become the master he would grow to be.

His father Joichiro's love and passion for cooking was bestowed upon his tiny son right from the very start. Soma had begun to help in the restaurant by the age of three, sorting items, washing fruits and vegetables, chopping the day's ingredients, prepping dishes, serving guests, and doing inventory. Though some might balk at the idea of a kid shouldering that sort of workload, these were the building blocks of Soma's childhood and, eventually, his career. He exhibited a tolerance for discipline and a penchant for creativity that would serve him well in the years to come within Restaurant Yukihira, in addition to learning how to manage busy, hungry, impatient patrons during rush hour. Soma's experiences in his family's business would prove invaluable to his time at Totsuki and his professional life afterwards.

Cooking since kindergarten

While Soma has long proven capable of keeping a cool head in the kitchen and thinking on his feet, he's also always exhibited the essential, unteachable spark that a true chef must have: passion. Nearly all of his waking moments are spent in pursuit of new flavors, intriguing techniques, and interesting textures to incorporate into his cooking at the restaurant. That intensity is his trademark — and it's been part of him from the very beginning.

As Soma entered the school system, he took his passion for the culinary arts with him, often trying out new and strange concoctions of flavors on his fellow classmates. Despite this odd behavior, he managed to make plenty of friends and didn't let his cooking interfere with his studying ... too much.

As early on as kindergarten, Soma would cook for his fellow students. While most kids were picking their noses or learning how to read, Soma was working on his technique for cooking eggs, perfecting his skills preparing meats, and developing new ways to surprise and delight (and sometimes disgust) whoever was lucky enough to try his food.

The battles begin

Clearly, Soma had an unconventional childhood. But the oddest part was yet to come. Now, many parents like to encourage a little fun and friendly competition with their kids. For some, that means a quick game of tennis or a casual match of soccer ... but not for the Yukihiras. Joichiro began to challenge Soma to cooking battles from a very early age.

That's right: This full-grown man, a restaurant owner and professional chef, would challenge his only son to outdo him at his own game. Whether they were tackling a classic family rice dish or a totally new recipe, the two would set out their ingredients, pick a challenge, and get to cooking. The lucky patrons and community members surrounding the restaurant would get to judge these two culinary whizzes' work by tasting the food they made.

Literally hundreds of cooking battles took place in the small but tidy kitchen of Restaurant Yukihira ... but Soma lost every one. Before he left to attend Totsuki Academy, Soma had, in fact, lost over 400 cooking battles against his father. What's most impressive, and illustrates the very heart of Soma's character, is that he never, ever gave up. With each battle, he got a little better, even coming up with some dishes that were good enough to make their way on to the permanent restaurant menu.

The darker flavor of Soma's cooking

Not every dish that Soma made was good enough to be served to patrons, however. This unique father and son pair had another thing in common besides their love for delicious food: A love of bold, crazy, disgusting flavors utterly stomach-turning to most people. Soma and Joichiro would try to outdo each other with nasty flavors and ungodly combinations, stretching the boundaries of cooking and, if we're being honest, human decency. Soma would subject his friends and schoolmates to these horrible flavors, laughing the whole time. His most diabolical creation? Peanut butter and dried squid, a dish so bad it gives you nightmares. Yes, our hero has a dark side, and it tastes like the unholy marriage of a first grader's lunchbox and a fisherman's catch.

This love of gross-out food would, however, play a role in making Soma the culinary wunderkind he'd go on to become. Thinking outside the box is one of the most valuable skills a chef can develop — even if it does lead to some truly nasty plates of food.

Saving the shop

Sumiredori Shopping District is a charming place, but even it is not immune to the influences of capitalism and the outside world. When an unscrupulous business woman tried to buy Restaurant Yukihira, Soma, who had been left in charge at the time, refused. In the night, she and her associates sabotaged the restaurant, destroying the meat in the coolers and rendering much of the menu impossible to serve.

When she returned to ask Soma to make her a meat dish, he used his quick wits (and some extra bacon) to create a culinary delight so good, she backed off and left Restaurant Yukihira alone for good. That's right: Soma created a dish delicious enough to send a woman who stood to gain thousands of dollars packing. After his victory, much to his surprise, Soma's father, mentor, and inspiration, Joichiro, told Soma that he'd be closing down the restaurant for a few years. It was time for his son to take on new challenges and upgrade his cooking skills even more at Totsuki Academy.

A start at Totsuki Academy

One of the finest culinary academies in the world, Totsuki is a place where youngsters grow from passionate newbies into world-class chefs. It is a privately-owned school in Tokyo, and has every amenity imaginable. An international staff pulled from the best restaurants, expansive grounds, and a devoted student body make this school a truly unique place.

One of the first people Soma encountered upon entering Totsuki was a girl his own age: Erina Nakiri, known for possessing a palate so peerless it is referred to as the "God Tongue." It was Erina who judged his dish in the academy's entrance exam, which, shockingly enough, managed to impress her. She denied his entrance out of snobbishness anyway, but was quickly foiled by the school director, who overturned her decision. Soma was in, but it was a very near miss.

Yes, Soma was a bit of an outsider from the beginning at Totsuki Academy. His small-town roots and swagger made him plenty of enemies on day one, especially after he stood up in front of the entire student body and announced he was going to be the best student at the school. While some classmates came to despise him, his attitude and antics also earned him plenty of friends and set him on his path to greatness.

Polar Star Dormitory

Getting into the academy was only the first challenge. At this extremely unconventional school, in turns out, the dorms are even more selective than the academy entrance exams! Polar Star Dormitory, in a charming if somewhat ramshackle house, had long held a reputation for producing some of the finest chefs ever to emerge from Totsuki Academy. Naturally, Soma had to be part of it.

In order to get into Polar Star Dormitory, Soma had to pass a cooking challenge. He made a mackerel burger for the dorm mother that wowed her enough to be allowed to stay on, and thus Soma came to call Polar Star Dormitory home.

The other members of Polar Star Dormitory would become some of Soma's dearest friends. He would become especially close to Megumi Tadokoro, a country girl with a passion for home-cooked flavors. The two were paired together right from the start at Totsuki, though her shy demeanor was, at first, an obstacle to her progress. But with Soma's help and leadership, she grew to become a world-class chef herself. He would inspire many of his fellow classmates at the academy in this way, including many who doubted or even outright disliked him. His tenacity and unwavering belief in his own ability to improve are, simply, infectious — something any fan of the series already knows well.

Joichiro and the Elite Ten Council

New challenges, new friends, and learning all that Totsuki Academy had to teach him consumed Soma's attention from the start. Nothing, however, consumed him as thoroughly as the cooking battles known as "food wars," which became Soma's obsession. Though his time at Totsuki Academy was full of unexpected twists and the food wars were often grueling, one thing kept him going: his father.

When Soma learned that Joichiro was once a student at Totsuki himself, it shone a whole new light on why his father had sent him to the prestigious cooking school in the first place. But Joichiro hadn't simply been a Totsuki student — he had been on the Elite Ten Council. This is, essentially, the highest honor a student can receive. The students of the council are carefully selected from the best of the best and have a huge amount of authority at the school, to the point of being second only to the school's director.

Ignited by this knowledge, Soma resolved to try even harder to become the best chef possible — and hopefully, someday, beat his father in a cooking battle. Though the odds seem insurmountable, Soma's defining trait is that he never, ever stays knocked down for long. We like his odds just fine.

Blazing his own path to glory

From his hard-working childhood to his outsider status at Totsuki Academy, Soma has been forged in fire. He wants to live up to his father's legacy. He wants to shatter his own limits. He wants to help his friends achieve their dreams as well. Sharpened on the grindstone of a working restaurant, honed to perfection by the gritty cooking battles at Totsuki, Soma's history has set him on the path to greatness.

With the help of his friends and the driving force of his enemies, Soma is able to learn more about himself as a chef, and get more in touch with his own style of cooking. Like all young people, he must learn to leave the trappings of childhood and the world that he thought he knew so well behind, to blaze a path of his own.

Thus his backstory ends, and the true story of Soma Yukihira begins. He must learn to step out of Joichiro's shadow by pursuing the type of cooking that he, not his father, is interested in. Only then will he be able to fulfill his destiny as a chef and change the culinary world forever.