Soma's very first challenge to defend his restaurant: After all the stock of his restaurant was destroyed by the land sharks that targeted his business, he manages to give the Alpha Bitch a "juicy meat dish" made basically of mashed potatoes wrapped with bacon. It was so good that it made her beg for more.
Soma Yukihira delivers a speech to the Tootsuki freshmen — saying he thinks of Tootsuki, a school with a 10% passing rate, as a mere stepping stone. A Badass Boast without shouting.
Then later telling Erina Nakiri who tried to pettily flunk him that he's had 12 years in the kitchen as opposed to two years of education and sooner or later, he'll make her admit that she liked his food.
The anime even added onto that. We see that Senzaemon was actually present, but out of sight during Soma's test, so he heard the whole entire thing. After he tastes the dish once everybody has left, it actually make him partially strip after tasting it. If he strips, that's a good sign.
His speech not only garnered all of the hatred of the average students, but also started to grab the interest of many of the hidden talents of the 93th Generation, which was exactly what Isshiki would later predict.
Soma's first Shokugeki against Ikumi Mito, who was then Erina's henchwoman. Not only did Soma win over her, but did so utilizing a cheap discount steak from the supermarket, against Ikumi's A5 Wagyu beef dish.
Takumi and Isami's introduction during the Training Camp. Takumi demonstrated his ability as a quick thinker outside the box by choosing aigamo (Japanese duck), while most of the others chose obvious fish dishes, and improvised Italian inspired recipes with the available ingredients, giving them a Japanese twist.
Isami doesn't get left behind as he can clean and cut the meat perfectly at a very quick pace, even though he says Takumi is three times faster than him.
Soma challenging Koujirou Shinomiya, a Tootsuki alumnus AND one of the Legendary Ten Alumni, to a Shokugeki. It helps that Shinomiya is a major Jerkass.
Soma: Does that Totsuki rule apply to Alumni, too?
Shinomiya: What are you talking about?
Even though Soma loses the match, Shinomiya tries the food Soma and Megumi Tadokoro made and it makes him relive his childhood (and yes it's an obvious glen from Ratatouille ) so much so that he adds in his own coin to the duo's plate. Shinomiya realizes his error in his stubborn ways and allows Megumi, as well as Soma, to stay in the school.
Not only that, Soma was not the head chef: Megumi was forced to take the position. Her recipe, with Soma's assistance, and getting props from the Legendary Chefs, despite not winning, adds to her credibility and staying power at Tootsuki.
Soma's comeback in the breakfast buffet trial, where he serves 200 plates in a meager 30 minutes.
To put this into perspective, Erina easily serves 407 plates in the 2-hour period, whereas Alice serves 380 plates with more than 10 minutes to spare, and stopped only because she had no more ingredients to keep making dishes. Soma's failed omelette manages to serve 10 plates, but with 30 minutes left on the clock, he improvises by putting on a live cooking performance that attracts more customers, and serves the 190 needed to pass the trial. Repeat: he made 190 dishes...IN THE SPAN OF 30 MINUTES.
To add a dash of extra awesome, his live cooking performance is so entrancing that he even manages to take customers away from Erina, who at that point had been monopolizing a good chunk of the crowd.
Soma takes a break to go check on his shop and finds the shopping district it's built in is once again endangered by a big business chain. He meets a representative of one of such, Mozuya, who's selling Karaage. Said representative is naturally cocky and flies off the handle when Soma challenges her, thinking he's beneath her. So Soma then comes up with an improved version of Karaage and two days later, causes Mozuya's sales to plummet. The representative heads to Soma's shop and realizes just how badly she underestimated him, especially when she's pressured to try his version. To add insult to injury, her boss is one of the Tootsuki Elite 10 who told her specifically to report to him if Soma tries anything. Needless to say she has a lot of explaining to do.
One for that whole shopping block in general. Soma may have made the food that brought business back to the area. But it was thanks to the efforts of the other shop owners working together that he managed to pull it off in short time.
Jouichirou Yukihira demolishing his son in their 490th cooking duel. If you thought Soma's skills were awesome, his father is culinary awesomeness PERSONIFIED.
Fumio Daimidou: "Even when Soma's dish could be given a perfect score, it feels like he [Jouichirou] could surpass it easily!"
Megumi carving a hanging goosefish in the middle of the Fall Classic tournament. No one even knows how she'll use it in her curry, not even the Queen of Curry herself!
Marui Zenji finally casts off his Butt Monkey status and displays his real skills by using his extensive knowledge to compensate for his average cooking sense.
Chapter 57: Megumi makes it to the final eight. Time for the little bird to take flight from her small, small garden. It's worth mentioning that the judges could really feel "human warmth" in it, right after they just had Alice's extravagant curry.
In the same chapter, Alice's dish, which is so strange and delicious that the judges can't find the words to describe it, and she made in to finals in the Fall Classic by getting the highest score in Block B.
Soma's entry for the Fall Classic is Curry Omelette Rissoto, which not only rivals Akira Hayama's dish (who gets plenty of merit because he's the favorite for the theme), but because it indirectly splits the judges' opinions: Akira scores 94 (two perfect 20s, three 18s), but Soma gets 93 (two 18s, three 19s); the three judges who awarded Akira 18s declare they enjoy Soma's dish more, thus giving him 19s. This begs the question, "Of the two, if they compete in a Shokugeki, who would win?"
As Satoshi Isshiki points out, Soma's dish was a combination of two of his "previous fails": the omelette from the breakfast buffet trial at Training Camp, and the Apple Rissoto made during his 490th duel against his father. Soma refuses to let those go as failures, thus used the experience in his favor.
First match of the Final Round: Soma defeated Alice's molecular cuisine techniques, making a bento box that had the only thing Alice's didn't: It made the judges feel the joy of eating it.
Not only that, it's also the details on the entries: Alice's dish was a Temari Bento, which included a vast amount of techniques of molecular gastronomy and ingredients, regarded as a "jewelry box". On the other hand, Soma defeated her with a Nori Bento (considered one of the cheapest and most basic bentos in the market) by making it fun to discover, prompting the judges to regard it as a "treasure chest". Senzaemon explained that while Alice's bento was superior in flavor, she could have also do this dish for a sushi competition.
Chapter 69 has Megumi delivering a Shut Up, Hannibal! moment to Ryou Kurokiba during their Fall Classic duel.
Chapter 70: Ryou Kurokiba's cooking and the "foodgasm" of the judges.
Chapter 71: The scenes of Megumi's combat with Ryou. Thus far, combat scenes have been used to dictate rivalries between people as a metaphor for their cooking clash. But all of these people have been naturally competitive. Seeing ultra-Nice Girl Megumi bust out a Stand and go toe-to-toe with Kurokiba Ryou, who's been pointed out as using a cooking style that is "pure force" and looks like a serial killer, is more awesome than when others do it.
Chapter 72: After the match is over, two students try to make fun of Megumi, only to be shut out by the entire audience of students applauding and praising her. From the very start, Megumi has been seen as a dunce and a failure due to her low scores in tests, but through sheer hard work and facing off the highly skilled Ryou, she has earned the respect of her peers.
In the very same chapter Megumi ends up losing to Ryou, with the audience noticing that, unlike how he did so with Ryou's dish, headmaster Senzaemon didn't strip after eating Megumi's dish, but it's also noticeable that we never see his reactions or hear his thoughts about it throughout the tasting. After the judges retire, Senzaemon suddenly excuses himself to go to the bathroom, where once alone, he notes that his fundoshi came loose without him realizing it, which he sees as a sign that Megumi has immeasurable potential. The headmaster of the most elite culinary school in the entire country, a man who stands at the top of everything related to food and the culinary industry, believes that shy, meek little Megumi's potential as a chef is so big that it can't even be measured!
Chapter 73 has the initial stages of Hisako Arato vs. Akira Hayama displaying their techniques. Not only Akira makes a big kebab, but Hisako momentarily overshadows him when she beheaded a living turtle and opened the shell in front of a shocked audience without even batting an eyelash. Worth mentioning that the only ones who were not amazed by this were the judges and Yuuki, who is a wild game chef used to this.
Finally in Chapter 74 and 75, Hayama counters back with a Kebab dish. This results in Hisako's defeat, even when her dish had a lot of taste and visual impact. Also equally awesome was Hayama's lecture on her: Hisako lost because she settled down to be Erina's Number Two and never leaving her shadow, while Akira himself has the ambition of reaching the Top of Tootsuki by dethroning Erina and taking over the Council of Ten Masters, very much like Soma declared.
Chapter 80: After winning against Takumi in their shokugeki, Subaru instantly goes to Soma's bedroom to likewise challenge him to one as they're paired off for the next stage of the election. Subaru hopes that seeing one of his friends defeated would get him riled up enough to accept. However, Soma stays coolheaded throughout the encounter and even ups the stakes. If Soma wins, he gets all 100 of Subaru's ill-gotten kitchen tools, but if Subaru wins Soma will give up being a cook and shut down his restaurant. Subaru warns Soma of the risk he's taking, but Soma, without a ounce of hesitation, tells him to bring it on. And to even top it all off, he tells Subaru what he's even going to make!
Chapter 87: As Mimasaka presents his completed meal to the judges in their match, even when Soma's idea of improvising the beef stew dish's ingredients the morning before their match to limit the perfect trace was anticipated by Mimasaka, Soma still keeps his cool and even gets him to question what may happen next.The look on Mimasaka's face just shows that we could be in for a satisfying win by our protagonist. See for yourself.
Subaru Mimasaka: All of what he's trying to do should be within my expectations. Yet, what am I afraid of?
Chapter 88: Sure enough Soma manages to gain the win mainly because he kept thinking of ways to improve the dish just as he was about cook it and his knowledge of beef in general, a complete improvisation. Mimasaka is completely waylaid by this as it leaves him virtually no way he can plan ahead to one up him. Soma even further twists the knife by mentioning that he indeed had the same idea Mimasaka had for his dish but knew that wouldn't cut it which lead to him to just do an on the spot dish right then and there.
Likewise listed in the Heartwarming section but all the kitchen utensils returned to their proper owners. One girl even properly thanks him for getting her kitchen knife back as it was a keepsake from her late mother.
After Soma wins, an official shows his friends the contract he had signed that would make it official that he would never cook again. He promptly rips it up much to Soma's friends' joy and relief.
Soma telling Subaru not to stop cooking as he realizes he does indeed have a talent for it.
Chapter 92 concluding the Hayama vs. Kurokiba match by doing it a Three-way Finale between both of them and Soma. To elaborate on how it happened, both Hayama's duck stew and Kurokiba's eel dish had their own strong points (Akira had the aroma combo, while Ryou packed a big explosion of flavor on it), which gave the judges a hard time to decide who they liked more. While Hinako and Fuyumi voted for Hayama, and on the other hand Doujima and Taki gave their votes to Kurokiba, the final vote was up to Sonoka. Seeing that she was under a lot of pressure from the audience and Kurokiba himself, Doujima suggested both of them deserved a win.
The artwork for both chapter 91 and 92 were awesomely drawn, with Hayama's entry resembling a Card Duel, and Kurokiba going feral.
Chapter 102 has Isshiki explaining to Eizan why everyone is rampant on putting down Soma: because if they decide to acknowledge him, then they are admitting that they haven't been making enough of an effort themselves. This is then followed by many people in the audience doing just that: Soma's fellow classmates are finally acknowledging his skill.
Chapter 107: For the first week of the Stagiaire period, Erina and Megumi are sent to a high-class restaurant run by a rude, obstinate chef who obviously doesn't want them there and tries to relegate them to grunt work which is well below their skill level and wouldn't allow them to complete their assignment. Erina calls him out on it and by the next day takes control over the kitchen. Under her leadership, the quality of cooking raises immensely. In the end, even the Head Chef bows down before her asking for advice, allowing Erina to earn an easy pass on the assignment. Like a boss.
Overall, Erina is shown to not unjustly deserve her position as "God's Tongue" and 10th Seat of the Student Council. Only the aftermath of one of her shokugeki is shown but she easily demolished her opponent - as she goes up to him and details exactly what he did wrong, including boiling seafood too long by seconds. She's shown as finishing her assigned resort meals with ridiculous ease each night of the training camp. During the breakfast buffet challenge, she makes and passes out 407 plates, the only individual to surpass 400 meals. She also is able to immediately detect the flaw in Soma's dish.
Megumi does not fall behind when it comes to the first week of the Stagiaire period. She does not have the experience or palate that Erina does, and is relegated to be a simple dishwasher, something she knows won't allow her to pass, and yet by looking at the leftovers of the plates she has to wash, she goes ahead to suggest that a specific dish should be served with the sauce on the side, allowing the customers to serve as much or as little sauce as they feel like. The head chef refuses, but right then a waiter comes in to say a customer is asking for more sauce, confirming Megumi's hunch and giving a solid back-up to her suggestion. Even Erina herself is impressed with Megumi, having initially agreed with her idea, and though we don't see more of how their Stagiaire went, it's clear that Megumi's contributions on how people enjoy their food allowed her to pass successfully alongside Erina.
Chapter 112 may not seem worthy initially, but watching Soma plow through what has to be one of the most demanding work environments imaginable is incredibly awesome. Even though he starts out way behind and out of his depth, Soma manages to catch up and pull his weight. The most amazing thing is that he doesn't even bother to get irritated or discouraged because he's simply way too excited about picking up a whole new skill-set. On top of that, Shinomiya's wordless faith in Soma's perseverance shows just how far he's come from the jerkass he used to be back at the training camp.
Chapter 116 establishes the end of the Internship period, which also served to eliminate the average students and keep the real good ones.
The Tootsuki personnel deserve one as well, since one of the examiners eliminated a student who not only didn't achieve any accomplishments, but even gave a bad reputation to his workplace by tweeting complaints about it.
Even though Daigo and Shoji didn't compete at the Fall Classic and they kept bickering during most of their Internships, the two managed to pass perfectly by creating a new dish for the restaurant.
Isami successfully cleared his Internship, also demonstrating that he gained enough level to support Takumi instead of depending on him.
Shun, even after saving a restaurant from bankruptcy, couldn't be happy about this because he still felt that he was below Soma, Megumi, and Isshiki.
Megumi also became more confident in contrast to her experience with her first Internship site, even assuming the roles of the waitresses at her current Ryokan. Though we don't see a lot of detail, it's clear that she's in her element - a complete opposite of the very nervous Shrinking Violet the readers were introduced to in the first few chapters.
During his 2 week absence, turns out that Soma had been receiving a lot of Shokugeki challenges from many sempais, because of his Fall Classic performance and also for clearing the Stagiaire stage, which placed him as equal for the rest of the school. Not only Soma accepted right away a challenge from a 2nd year, but also declared that he was going to accept all the other challenges. Not only he did get more confidence and skills, but his appearance also seems to have matured and he gained a new fire in his eyes.
This was built up from Chapter 118 to Chapter 119. 2nd Year and 8th Seat of the Council of Ten Masters, Terunori Kuga, started to boast and say that they shouldn't waste time with the First Years. The very first thing that comes out from Soma's mouth is to request a Shokugeki from any of them, which earns the collective shock from everyone there. Even thought they declined, Soma was still unimpressed by all the privileges given to the Elite. What finally lit the fire was Kuga berating all the First Years by declaring that neither of them has a chance against the Council of Ten Masters. The whole group (except for a scared Megumi and an unimpressed Erina) was burning with silent anger and ready to take them down anytime.
And even though she was scared to the core, Megumi agreed that the Council of Ten Masters had no right to talk to them like that and she wished Soma would defeat them, even when she herself was afraid of that possibility.
In Chapter 126, Soma manages to advance a few ranks during the 2nd day, despite the disadvantage of setting up his stand next to Kuga's.
In Chapter 128, Soma gives a Badass Boast to Kuga, telling him that he is the better one of the two when it comes to managing a restaurant. It gets him a Death Glare from Kuga but the next chapter shows that Soma is picking up the pace thanks to some help from Mimasaka. The imagery is an example of Soma showing that he Took a Level in Badass throughout the week as rather than Soma being a cat facing a lion (Kuga) he is now another lion worthy enough to be considered a rival to Kuga.
Finally in Chapter 130 Soma's booth manages to surpass Kuga's booth because of their teamwork:
Megumi applied her experience as a hostess to manage and give her kindness to the customers, caring for their needs beyond just the food and making them comfortable, something Kuga's restaurant lacked.
Subaru copied Soma's pace perfectly without lowering the quality.
They got additional decorations thanks to the Regional Cuisine RS, who went to support Megumi, knowing that she had good reasons to decline her spot with them.
Pulling off a Big Damn Heroes moment Ikumi, Takumi and Isami appeared to help, with Ikumi managing the Hujiao Bing buns, Isami taking charge of the noodles and Takumi aiding both Soma and Subaru.
Which is even more impressive is that Takumi, right away and without any practice or information of the Mapo-Noodles recipe, kept a perfect pacing with Soma on his first try, which took Subaru three days to perfect by himself.
Chapter 131: Alice, Ryou and Akira get themselves out of the red by finally utilizing their talents in form of a curry rice topped with a 3-D printed chocolate sculpture flavored with spices.
Chapter 132: Soma and Megumi are treated to the Moon Festival booth of the current First Seat, Eishi Tsukasa, by none other than the Second Seat, Rindou Kobayashi. When Soma tries Eishi's food for the first time, his reaction to the taste cuts to a pure-white void with nothing other than Soma and the current dish. Which is only the first of nine.
It's then followed by Soma and Megumi watching as Eishi awkwardly frets over his customers, asking if the air conditioning is too cool, if they need more water, if they're comfortable, etc. As amusing as it is, Soma points out to Megumi that for all his obsessive worrywarting, Eishi never feels the need to ask one question: How does it taste?.
Him expelling Azami from Tootsuki and the Nakiri family counts as this. The main reason he did this was out of genuine anger and indignation at Azami for brainwashing Erina with his Training from Hell. Senzaemon clearly shows that he is a Papa Wolf in the flashback and in the present as he forms a plan to save Erina from Azami by asking Soma to save her.
So, thought Soma was gonna be the only one to help Erina? Nope, Alice isn't having any of that shit. She gets both Hisako and Ryou and take Erina as far away from Azami as possible. Her and Erina may butt heads at times, but they clearly love each other as sisters and this shows it.
Speaking of Soma, his response to Senzaemon's request above? Despite saying he understands Erina's situation is complicated, he knows exactly what he has to do and reminds us that he still hasn't forgotten when she called his dish disgusting and reaffirms his vow to get her to admit his food is delicious. He puts two and two together quickly and is confident he can get the job done. We then cut to Senzaemon musing about Jouichiro's reason for enrolling Soma in Tootski, that if anyone can free Erina, its him and their entire generation.
Also, Kuga Terunori of the Elite 10, despite how jerkass he's been introduced, expresses disgust to the point where he boycotts a fucking council meeting.
Despite knowing full well the judges have been rigged, and that his chances of winning are slim to none. Soma formally challenges Eizan to a Shokugeki to to save the Polar Star Dorm from demolition.
Soma: I'm not doing this for the guys back at dorm, I'm doing this for me. The Polar Star Dorm is where I can further master my own style of cooking. That's why, you'll be accepting this Shokugeki. I won't let you destroy my dorm.
Soma and the PSD members refuse to be intimidated by Eizan, with the latter fighting back with barricades and hoses. This causes Eizan to freak out a bit before deciding to take the Shokugeki seriously.
Soma doesn't even flinch when Eizan tries to intimidate him through his roomates. He is just interested to make his dish well.
From all people, Megumi is the one who decides to defend the dorms, giving them the confidence to do so.
Fumio reveals to the residents that during the Golden Age it was common place for them to defend the dorms, with Jouichirou and Gin protecting from the front... and Jun cowering in a corner. Erina and Hisako are surprised to hear that it was an everyday ocurrence back then.
Eizan decides to cook in order to defeat Soma. It is then revealed by Rindou and the judges who were bribed by Eizan that Eizan is an excellent cook and that his skills could be better than some of the members of the Elite Ten. Considering the fact that Eizan has the second lowest seat in the Elite Ten, that's quite an accomplishment.
What's more, we get more information on how the Elite Ten are selected. The most important criteria is your record in Shokugeki (something that talented chefs like Souma will have no problems fullfilling). Eizan's excellent business sense coupled with his cooking knowledge secured more money than what Totsuki got from their tuition fees in the year he applied, unanimously securing him a spot on the Elite Ten despite Eizan having almost NO Shokugekis under his name!
Soma taunts Eizan. Eizan's face says it all. Doubles as Funny
Soma makes Eizan give his Oh Crap! face and manages to make the judges taste his food.
Chapter 147: Soma finally beats a member of the Elite 10 in competition. In a total Curb-Stomp Battle to boot.
What makes this sweeter is that Eizan's loss is entirely his own fault. He made it a point of constantly antagonizing Soma and provoking him. Then when Soma finally challenges him to a Shokugeki, he's absolutely confident he will win because the judges are on his side and will declare him the winner regardless of the outcome. When Soma is completely unfazed by Eizan's efforts to beat him, the latter decides to win legit by making a better dish. The judges are sure that anything Soma cooks won't compare to anything Eizan makes and even Rindou notes that if he put his mind to it, Eizan could be a better cook than the entire Elite 10. Soma gets them to taste his food anyway with some well-placed taunts. Both Eizan and the judges are reduced to fools after tasting Soma's dish.
Soma's dish was the result of all the time he has spent with the Polaris residents. Erina, for her part, realizes that the guys managed to make superior dishes not by following her exact instructions, but because they trusted more their own instincts and feedback from their friends. Because of this she starts to realize that, while her palate is very precise, she doesn't have the last word. Cooking does have endless possibilities and not just one way to make something delicious. There's even a bit of a Call Back to the pilot when Soma acknowledges that thinking there's only one right way of doing something is boring.
To reiterate: Soma won the shokugeki against Eizan by using a dish that his dormmates helped him perfect. Not only did he absolutely crush the Smug Snake in terms of cooking, he did it in such a way so as to prove the value of the Polar Star dorm's existence. It wasn't enough for Soma to simply beat Eizan, because the judges could have voted for Eizan even while liking his dish more, if they wanted. No, instead he won in such a way that voting for Eizan would have destroyed the source of a superior dish, thereby tying the judges' hands and forcing them to vote fairly. Soma knew going in that people were backing Azami for his philosophy of one right method and one alone, and knew if he could prove it wrong, they wouldn't be able to bring themselves to destroy a source of such cooking, because money's not the issue to these people, quality is. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Batman Gambit at its finest.
After defeating Eizan, Soma grabbed the camera and boasted that he and his friends won't tolerate any abuse and will fight back. Even if it's from a Council member. Even after winning, Soma said that he wanted a rematch against Eizan at his best condition.
Isshiki knew from the beginning the outcome and opted to just let things happen. That's how confident he is on Soma's potential to change Tootsuki for the best.
When Soma returns to Polar Star afterwards all of Eizan's cronies are visibly terrified and actively avoid Soma as he strides back through the gates to the dorm. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of Badass.
Chapter 150: When you think about it, Jouichirou managing to have Azami, an extreme Control Freak idolized him is awesome in itself. Also, Azami being a first seat in his Second Year in Tootsuki and trying to be one of the circle of the Demon Kings of food.
Chapter 152: So Isshiki's been kicked out of the Elite Ten (as well as the 8th and 3rd seats) and the rest are going to participate in at least some of the upcoming Shokugekis against the RS clubs, nicknaming it the "Survivor's Hunt". What does he do? Well, being the chessmaster he is, he sneaks in one final act before leaving the Elite Ten: a set of rules and clauses for the upcoming Shokugekis that prevent anything remotely similar to the corruption that Eizan pulled previously, including requiring the judges to be unaffiliated with Tootsuki and preventing ANY contact with them from the dueling parties. In short, while it's still no walk in the park, he's at least guaranteed that the rest of the Tootsuki students have a 100% fair, fighting chance to save their clubs - a sentiment in line with the previous administration.
Even though the readers are rooting against Central, it's really impressive that almost all of them (aside from the Elite Ten members) managed to defeat 0-3 all the clubs they have faced during the chapter.
Which makes the moment even more impressive when, after getting enough from the arrogant mockery from the Central guys, Soma and Takumi finally decided to screw discretion and challenge him.
It continues in the following chapter, where this time is Takumi who gives "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the arrogant Central recruit, pointing out that his repetitive emphasis on being chosen doesn't speak about his real talent. Both Soma and the judges seemed impressed by this.
Despite Alice just finding out that she owns the Edge-Cutting RS, she still used the opportunity to challenge Central, mainly because she wants to do something to oppose Azami.