I just got back from seeing Jiro Dreams of Sushi, an exceptional documentary about 85-year old sushi chef Jiro Ono. Considered one of the best sushi chefs in Japan, and the oldest chef in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars, Jiro continues to run his critically acclaimed restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro–a 10-seat jewelbox of a restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. Jiro can count culinary heavyweights from around the world as fans, including Joel Rubuchon and Anthony Bourdain, who has said his meal at Jiro was “the best sushi of his life.”
The movie touches on many subjects: work ethic, culture, generation gaps, class, family, life, death, and even environmentalism. But the theme that struck me most throughout the film was dedication to one’s craft. Jiro truly has a passion for making sushi–a lifelong passion that continues to drive him to this day. And his passion, perfection, and persistence seemed to rub off on everyone around him: his son Yoshikazu, his apprentices, his fish dealers, his rice dealers. He inspired others with his dedication, and pushed them to elevate their own skills and passion as well. Every element of the sushi–the technique and quality of the fish, the preparation and particular variety of rice, the final presentation and timing of the meal–involved countless hours of training, testing, and tasting, to get that one perfect umami bite.
In an age where sushi is ubiquitous around the globe, we forget that sushi making is really an art form. But Jiro Dreams of Sushi reminds us that artisans like Jiro are still out there, elevating the craft that they love and bringing joy to eager diners one nigiri at a time.
(Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)