When I walk into a Japanese supermarket, I’m immediately drawn to the massive spread of prepared foods. Even small supermarkets, like 7-Eleven and FamilyMart, have a significant space dedicated to prepared foods. And, they are inexpensive and better than what average Japanese restaurants in New York serve, so cooking seems pointless. The baseline qualification to become a professional cook is quite high, so finding bad food is hard.
In the US, only the chefs at fine dining restaurants are culturally respected. The rest are just extensions of customers’ hands, so every chef wants to open a fine dining restaurant. There is no pride at the lower end. The Japanese “shokunin” spirit is independent of socioeconomic status. Cooks making an 8-dollar bowl of ramen are just as proud of their creations as the Michelin chefs, and the public trusts and respects them too. I think this is part of the reason supermarkets carry so many prepared foods. If the cooks at supermarkets weren’t proud, their foods wouldn’t be so good, and if customers didn’t trust them, there wouldn’t be any demand.
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