Director: David Gelb (A Positive Rage, A Vision of Blindness, Lethargy)
Producers: Kevin Iwashina, Tom Pelligrini
Starring: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 81 min.
Jiro owns a little sushi restaurant in Tokyo. It’s in a subway station, seats 10 people, the washroom is in the station and reservations are taken a month in advance with a 36,000 yen deposit (for those who wonder, that’s $360. For a reservation. Sometimes booked a year in advance). Jiro isn’t just any sushi chef. He’s a three star Michelin Guide chef and considered the best sushi chef in the world and David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi introduces us to the quiet 85-year old proprietor who has shown the world that the preparation of sushi is not only admirable but an art form.
Gelb’s documentary is an interesting marriage of ideas. On the one hand its an exploration of a type of food which many of us take for granted. On the other it’s an inspiring story of man who has devoted his life to food and who, daily, strives to achieve perfection and perhaps most interestingly, though much less important, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the ultimate benchmark in our culture’s current fascination with photographing food.
Gelb’s film is a fascinating exploration not only of food and cooking but also of the trending topic of slow food. Whereas most of the world is familiar with sushi as a fast, on the go sort of food, everything about Jiro’s restaurant and approach to sushi screams slow food. The fish is painstakingly prepared from the highest quality catch, with apprentices working for a decade to master various steps involved with preparation to meet Jiro’s exacting demands. Squid is massaged for forty minutes prior to serving to ensure tenderness, other fish is marinated for 5 to 7 hours – all of this to bring out the natural flavours of the fish. Jiro’s dishes are uncomplicated. Simple portions over rice (that no one else can cook) that find the perfect balance; it is the ultimate simplicity, served one piece at a time to a party of 10.
Over the course of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro shares stories of his life as a child, about leaving home at the tender age of 9 with the sentiment that he couldn’t come back. He worked hard to master his trade, with the dedication and sacrifice of being a stranger to his children but when the boys were old enough, he brought them into the family business, prepping his oldest son to take over the restaurant while his youngest eventually opened his own 2 Michelin star restaurant, a near replica of his father’s restaurant.
One would think that a man this praised and sought after would be self centered but Jiro is far from that. He’s tough, and his search for perfection is not only a personal goal but something he expect from his employees to the dealers he buys from. He’s also a man with a clear understanding of sustainability, something he has passed onto his sons and apprentices.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a little gem. A film that is both a small, personal story of a man who loves food and an inspirational tale of working hard for what you love; it will leave you both satisfied and starved.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is out on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, July 24th.
Disc Extras: Feature length commentary with director David Gelb, a sushi gallery and additional interviews with some of Jiro’s dealers.
Click “play” to see the trailer: