History of the Neal Seal

Published: 07-20-2007
It was difficult to be a young man far from home in a strange land and who did not eat fish. Fish and seafood that was neither baked nor broiled, neither glazed nor grilled, and particularly fish that had never felt the warmth of a good cooking-in other words raw.

Such was the predicament of Neal Schier when in the early 1990s he found himself flying in Japan. That he could not find cooked bacon, a robust salad bar, and certainly not a Waffle House led to a culinary crisis of Hogarthian proportions. Having neither the skill nor the dietary inclination to go native, Neal found himself on a quest that would have made the one for the Holy Grail look feeble in comparison. It was not a golden chalice that he was in search of though, but rather a decent plate of Westernized chow.

Thus was born the Neal Seal. For with time, patience, and constant sleuthing, Neal found those hidden gems of eating establishments within the island nation of Nippon that could meet his stringent dining and drinking demands. Those that passed this edibility examination were bestowed the honor of the Neal Seal'a badge of pride to be displayed on or near the door of those chosen, those elect, those purveyors of good eats. Proprietors learned that it was a mark of excellence and a lesson that there was more to tucking in at the table than a bowl of raw fish.

Soon word spread from Sapporo in the north of the country to Shimojishima at the far southern tip that there was a new stranger, a new gaikokujin (or gaijin in the shortened form) in town and, knowing how to strap on the feed bag with the best, he could a render judgment regarding a restaurant with an authority that would make those who determine the awarding of the storied Michelin stars look hapless in their task.

Now, nearly 15 years later the Neal Seal is making a re-appearance around the world. Not only in Japan and across the cities of Asia, but also in London, Paris, and even on occasion in South America, it is fast becoming the mark of similarly discriminating aircrew members around the globe to mark their pleasure with food, drink, good service, and anything else that merits recognition with a true seal of distinction.

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