Imagine that you have a typical tournament-based battle shounen. Now replace the fighting... with food porn. The result is basically Shokugeki no Souma.
The story takes place at an elite culinary school called Tōtsuki Academy; a place so competitive that only about 10% of its students are estimated to ever graduate from it. Enter Yukihira Souma: a confident 15-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a full-time chef at his father's restaurant. In order to do so, Souma enrolls in the prestigious school and has to go through all the ruthless challenges it has to offer as he seeks to slowly but surely climb his way to the top.
The anime follows Souma and the other students as they have to accomplish various difficult cooking assignments and challenges under very strict teachers, as well as compete against one another. This is primarily done through a dueling system called the Shokugeki: an official cook-off judged by an unbiased jury which is used as a means to settle debates and disagreements. During a Shokugeki, each competing side must prematurely wager something which is deemed to be of equal value, and they're both obliged to honor their part of the bargain should they be the one to lose the match. In this way, the students can use their cooking skills alone to "fight" each other.
So what exactly is it that makes this anime so good then? Well simply put, Shokugeki no Souma is incredibly entertaining. It is addictive, somewhat original and it keeps making you giggle to yourself at the never-ending foodgasms. Now if you don't know what a foodgasm is, it's basically the orgasm-like reaction a character has when eating something so delicious that they're unable to contain their excitement, and this anime has plenty of that. So yes, there are a lot of ecchi moments, but it somehow fits the show *perfectly*. I don't even know why it's so much fun to watch, but it just is. These reactions are very creative, generally connected to the food in question in some way, and beautifully illustrated accordingly. I might also add that the series' illustrator is originally a hentai mangaka, so it's not really that strange that the eroticism is so on point.
As a protagonist, Souma is extremely cocky, but also very charismatic. He's the kind of character which you like to cheer for and want to win, which in a competitive story is a pretty big deal. Other characters include the clumsy but kindhearted Megumi, the condescending tsundere Erina who has unparalleled taste buds, the meat-obsessed Nikumi and countless more. As a whole, the character cast is very balanced and diverse, which also results in very different kinds of cooking.
Speaking of which, the culinary aspect is pretty interesting in and of itself. If you're interested in trying out some new recipes for yourself, then Shokugeki no Souma has plenty of inspiration for you. The sheer amount of creativity poured into the various exotic dishes in this anime is not to be underestimated. I haven't really tried cooking anything new that I've seen in this show myself as of yet, but there are certainly a handful of things I'd love to try someday.
But in the end, regardless of whether you're primarily watching Shokugeki no Souma for the foodgasms, the cooking or the intense competition, you're probably not going to be left disappointed because the anime does a great job on all three fronts. There's also the fact that this is an almost perfect adaptation of the manga, so even hardcore fans of the source material should most likely be satisfied with it.
On the other hand, given the huge tease of a cliffhanger ending, we're all going to have to be impatiently rolling our thumbs in eager anticipation for the fateful day when season 2 (hopefully) comes around.