As the 2016 Rio Games began to wrap up last week, 27 chefs from different countries participated in what amounted to the Olympics of sushi. Starting on Thursday, chefs from France, Brazil, the United States, Pakistan and nine other countries competed in Japan’s World Sushi Cup – an event sponsored by Japan’s agricultural ministry with the end goal of making sure people around the world get their sushi-making up to snuff. Brazilian-born Chef Celso Hideji Amano took home the cup after some grueling competition that tested their techniques. Usman Khan – a 32-year-old Pakistani chef – described it as “not an easy competition” because of the high pressure.
The competitors made traditional “Edo” style sushi in short periods of time for the first round, according to Japan Today. The next day, they made their own original styles of the meal. Hideji Amano burst into tears after judges named him the winner, but overall, he said he had fun. Just like 1.8 million other people in Brazil, the chef is of Japanese descent. The South American country boasts the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. According to CNN, the first settlers arrived in 1908 because of high unemployment rates in Japan.
The sushi competition started in 2013, in response to the growing interest in the UNESCO-recognized food. “Quite a lot of people are learning from the internet and books,” said World Sushi Cup chairman Masayoshi Kazato. “Improvement of the level of cooking and hygiene through this competition – that’s what we’re aiming for.” But this wasn’t a problem Celso who took his place at the top of the podium, just as if he were an athlete claiming gold back home.