Class of 2021
Proving that it’s possible to make a successful career out of your biggest passions, Natsuko Shoji has blended food, art and fashion to create one of Japan’s most coveted brands. Born and raised in Tokyo, she inherited a love of style from her mother at a young age and became interested in baking after making cream puffs for a high school assignment. Realising she could make a profession from her art, she took a job at Florilège, a restaurant that has reached the upper echelons of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, where was promoted to sous chef within three years.
In 2014, determined to deepen the link between food and fashion, she opened tart shop Été (French for summer), where she began to create haute-couture cakes inspired by exclusive brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Using Japanese seasonal fruits like mango and strawberry, she created works of art that she served only to friends, or friends of friends, in a luxurious black box. Such was the success of the shop that Natsuko soon grew famous, serving celebrities (she counts David Beckham and René Redzepi as happy customers) and giving access to her four-seat table by invitation only. Now at a larger location with six seats, Eté is able to serve a fraction more customers, but the cakes remain as exclusive and coveted as ever.
A rarity in Japan’s male-dominated gastronomy scene, Natsuko is an inspiration to young women, whom she hopes to encourage to enter the craft. She sets an example by emphasising that true success comes from a commitment to the kitchen and continually pushing herself to do better – a work ethic that helped her to win the title of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef in 2020.
“More than anything, I believe in hard work. Nothing in life comes easy. If you give your very best and pursue it with all your heart, then you can achieve it.” – Natsuko Shoji