The Bento&co Contest winners are announced, plus some personal favorites

The results of the big Bento&co Contest have been announced - the grand prize winner is Huang, who gets to go to Kyoto in September! As I mentioned earlier, I was one of the judges for this contest, and it was a very difficult task indeed to come up with a top 50, let alone a top 20. Everyone was really pushing the envelope!

Here are some of my personal favorites that didn't make the finalist list (with one exception).

This hearty bento is by Tom. I love the big piece of grilled salmon taking up one whole layer, and the mashed potato and pea balls. I'll have to try them out! And there's still room for some fresh fruit too. I think of this as an All-American bento.


This tour de force loaded with colorful fruit and vegetables is by Mathieu. Check out the repeated heart motifs - and imagine you are his fiancée (the intended recipient), opening this up at lunchtime! If I were her I'd say "oui" no matter what. ^_^


Here's another colorful bento by a boy (love to see the boys get into the bento action), Pascal. I have to admit I am not totally sure how edible raw green pepper top is, but does add some great color. Love the mouse face!


I liked this fairly simple bento by Marie because she uses the wavy edge of the bento box (a Zoony, if I'm not mistaken) to good use in her layout. Again, I'm not sure how edible one ingredient is - in this case the star anise. Pretty for sure, but try biting into one! Oy! Nevertheless, a elegently simple bento.


I also likes this bento by Salome for its simple attractiveness. Putting something like curry in a closeable container surrounded by rice is a very nice touch. The veggies in the other layer look great too.


This bento by master bentoist Sheri of Happy Little Bento was actually in the top 20 finalists, but I'm including it here because to me this is what a great bento should be - colorful, not too fussy, healthy, and just delicious looking. Check out her clever use of accessories to add extra color.


This bento by Delphine is great because all the little details - the stars on the cupcake, the little face on the onigiri, the flower shaped mini croque-monseiur sandwiches, and above all the tiny Eiffel Tower carrot cutouts. Love!


Speaking of love, since the theme for the contest was "A bento for someone you love", many entries had love or hear motifs. This one by Gisele was my favorite because of the pop-art sensibility of the cheese cutouts. And of course, the cute radish-mice!


Last but not least, this bento was probably my favorite in the whole contest, though I guess I was in the minority. It's by Hoa, and I love it not only because of it's slightly odd and unusual look, which looks rather like something out of a '60s scifi movie (or maybe a '70s psychedelic one), but because of the back story: it's for her husband, a "plant scientis who loves nature". The shapes in the bento look like things he might be seeing under his microscope! But still quite delicious looking too.


What really impressed me about the contest entries, besides the overall high quality, was how unique so many bentos were - and how far away from the traditional Japanese bento model most were too. I think Japanese people (myself included) tend to get stuck in the rice-plus-sides model of bentos, and clearly bento culture has taken off to realms well beyond that. It's great to see how putting food in a little container can spur the creativity of so many people from around the world.

Anyway, the contest has made me eager to get back to my own bento-making again... ^_^;

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