Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi
Kitchen Princess is a shojo manga series. It is written by Natsumi Ando and drawn by Miyuki Kobayashi. It is published by Del Rey Manga in the US and has a Teen rating. The first few books at least seem more geared to younger teens or tweens.
I really enjoy Kitchen Princess. Nothing about the plot is life-altering but as a self-professed foodie, it is great fun to read a book littered with delicious desserts and with recipes. And even if you don't love the series, the volumes go so fast, that there's little reason not to read them. I can easily finish a volume in 20-30 minutes.
Each chapter centers around a single recipe. The recipe manages to work its way into the plot - some a bit awkwardly. The end of each volume includes a collection of the recipes for the corresponding chapters. Surprisingly for a Japanese manga, most of the recipes are for Western concoctions - cakes, flan, creme brulee, sandwiches, pie, etc. I haven't tried making any of them but they do look good.
Warning: My manga "reviews" often contain spoilers. I find it hard to adequately discuss a volume of manga without talking about it in more detail than some might like.
But I think my reviews of Volume 1 and 2 contain minimal spoilers.
This volume introduces us to the main plot. Najika Kazami is an orphan living in Hokkaido. When she was younger, she was rescued from falling into a river by a boy who, as an odd comforting gesture, gave her a bowl of flan with a silver spoon. The spoon was embossed with Seika Academy's crest. Najika-chan has been seeking her "Flan Prince" ever since. She earns a spot in Seika Academy with the express goal of finding her flan prince.
The flan prince doesn't just show up at Seika Academy. Instead, she befriends two brothers. Sora is the model student, the "good boy." His estranged brother is Daichi, the dashing, volatile "bad boy." Daichi and Najika get off to a bad spot when he catches her climbing something and nicknames her "monkey." But the chemistry between them is electric. Najika also is attracted to Sora, whose kindness makes her transition to Seika easier.
Najika is placed in Class A, a special class for extra talented students. No one understands what Najika did to deserve a spot amongst the stars. She is not overly brilliant at school, wealthy, nor a celebrity. The popular girls, led by a young model named Akane, give her a rough time. They don't think she's qualified to be in the special class. But Najika proves herself to be truly special - at cooking.
Akane is a main feature of this volume. The story begins with Sora and Daichi convincing Najika to stay at Seika Academy, despite the fact that most people don't like her. Akane is the leader of the Anti-Najika group. She is jealous of Najika's cooking skill, but mostly jealous of Najika's friendship with Daichi. Akane has a big crush on Daichi.
The most significant part of this volume deals with Akane's eating disorder. To further her modeling career, Akane eats less and less. This threatens not only her health, but her prospective career as well. Najika works with Sora and Daichi to create Akane's favorite childhood recipe, Peach Pie, in hopes that Akane will eat. The search for the perfect pie recipe is hilarious. It adds levity to an otherwise serious topic. I don't think the eating disorder aspect is handled well. I like that they bother to bring up the issue at all, but the idea that just finding a great recipe will get someone with an eating disorder to eat is ridiculous.