It's not Italy. 

By Maria Yagoda
Updated October 15, 2019

As Japan continues to cement its reputation as a destination for world-class Italian cuisine, the eighth annual Barilla Pasta World Championships just crowned Japanese chef Keita Yuge as its winner.

Courtesy of Barilla

The global competition, which took place in Paris from October 10 to 11, gathers chefs from around the world to compete in the art of pasta-making. While the event traditionally takes place in Milan, this year it journeyed to France, with the message that pasta is truly a global food. Yuge's winning dish was an elegant, creamy gorgonzola penne with a "Japanese perfume." Last year, American chef Carolina Diaz won with her interpretation of spaghetti al pomodoro, making her the first female champion.

Courtesy of Barilla

Fourteen chefs from around the world competed in three escalating challenges, the last of which was known as The Gran Finale: "The piece of resistance, the work—and the dish—by which the chef will be remembered. The chefs will be invited to reinterpret the Masterpiece of their first challenge, by adding an unexpected twist."

Courtesy of Barilla

Food & Wine was on the ground at the Paris competition, where attendees (who were able to watch the chefs at work) predicted that either Yuge or Brazilian chef Heaven Delhaye would take the top prize. Delhaye's Gran Finale was complex and satisfying: a capellini with langostine tartare, caviar, bagna cauda, a bit of parsley and algae, and a balsamic reduction with pine nut crunch. Somewhat surprisingly, Italian chef Matteo Carnaghi, of Milan, did not make the final four; the other final four spots went to Canada (Kshiltiz Sethi) and Switzerland (Gabriel Heintjes).

Courtesy of Barilla

The theme of this year's competition was "The Art of Pasta.”

"Is pasta an art? For us it is," muses the Pasta World Championship website. "Each piece of pasta is a small piece of design that combines beauty and taste. Creating with pasta means playing with the colors of a painting, the grace of a ballet, the sounds of a symphony. It is form and movement, and creates masterpieces."

We're inclined to agree.