At the beginning of this documentary on his life Jiro, a Japanese octogenarian chef, lectures that you must fall in love with your job. And in fact this is the tale of an extraordinary love affair between him and his endless quest of making the finest sushi ever. From his small unassuming basement restaurant ‘Sukiyabashi Jiro’ in Tokyo that seats just 10 people he became the first ever sushi chef to be awarded the much coveted Michelin 3 Star …. It was, as the judges said, the only rating they could give for such incredibly wonderful food.
Jiro’s passion for perfection is unassuming and quiet and not showy in the least, but nonetheless fiercely determined. Interestingly enough he is somewhat a cold fish of a man (if you will excuse the pun) and even Mr. Yamamoto, Toyko’s leading Food Critic, admitted to be intimated by him whenever he ate there. Yoshikazu, his oldest son works alongside him, as do his team of five staff with whom he is un-mercilessly strict to ensure that together they serve nothing less than the very best. After all, dinner or lunch, consisting only of sushi, starts from 30,000Yen c $380, and you need to call on month ahead to secure a reservation. It takes over ten years for one of his apprentice’s to train with him before he will even consider them worthy of the title ‘shokunin’ (artisan).
The director/cinematographer David Gelb shows us every minute and labored process that goes into creating the fine and very simple sushi that Master Jiro creates. What’s fascinating too is the behind-the-scenes look at the Tokyo Fish Market and the trouble that Yoshikazu goes too with all his highly specialized suppliers to ensure that he gets the very best fish and ingredients regardless of price. The attention to detail is completely fascinating.
The second son has opened his own Sushi restaurant in the Roponggi district, but no matter how good his sushi is, like his sibling he will never escape being known as the son of Jiro whose work he will never be able to improve upon. Having said that towards the end of the movie Mr Yamamoto the Critic lets slip that when the Michelin judges ate at Jiro’s the sushi that day had actually been prepared by Yoshikazu.
The film focuses solely on the chef rather than the man himself, and although it shows a brief trip to visit the graves of his parents who all but abandoned him, it doesn't ever mention his wife and the mother of his sons, or much else outside the restaurant walls.
I was completely fascinated by not only this quiet unassuming man’s total dedication to what is really an obsession, but I will also confess that I sat there drooling at each piece he so lovingly made. I went to bed dreaming of Jiro dreaming of sushi, or more to the point, feeding me with it.
You don’t have to be a big sushi fan to love this captivating movie, but if you are then you will never be happy with what they serve up at your local Japanese restaurant ever again.