“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
– Jiro Ono
OMG. I need to find Sukiyabashi Jiro. If I call them now, I should be able to make a reservation… oh, sometime next year.
Located in Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Sukiyabashi Jiro has three Michelin stars, despite being in a nondescript subway station. Chef Jiro Ono is regarded by many to be one of the top sushi chefs in Japan, if not the world. You may have seen Jiro from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. But to truly understand him, you need to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Filmed by David Gelb, this documentary delves into Jiro’s passion, nay, obsession with perfecting his life’s work.
For instance, did you know that an apprenticeship with Jiro is a twenty-year commitment? Twenty-freaking-years. You can get a medical degree in less time than that. Ten years in is when you finally begin making tamago. Tamago. I always thought tamago was just grilled eggs, but apparently it takes years to make it correctly.
Anything less than perfect is not acceptable either. My mouth watered as I watched Jiro sample pieces of sushi. But he wasn’t snacking. He was testing. “If it doesn’t taste good, you can’t serve it,” he says. What I wouldn’t give to eat even his rejects.
The fish he gets are only from a select few fishermen who are experts in their fields. Even the rice Jiro uses is from a rice expert. I had no idea there even were rice experts, but hey, there are.
Perfection comes at a cost, however. Jiro is known to be an impatient and controlling boss. He can be harsh and critical, especially of his two sons. Many customers walk into Sukiyabashi Jiro and feel intimidated, perhaps even uncomfortable. It’s not the kind of place you go for appetizers (they don’t have any) or to kick back some sake (they may not have this either).
Jiro wasn’t much of a father to sons, he admits. “I was probably more like a stranger.” When his sons were little boys, on the rare occasion that he slept in on a Sunday, his youngest son would say, “Mom, there’s a strange man sleeping in our house!” Jiro’s commitment to his craft meant waking up at 5AM before his boys woke up and returning home at 10PM after his boys went to sleep. It’s a relationship that strangely mirrors the relationship he had with his own father.
Both have since grown up to become renowned sushi chefs. The younger son, Takashi, now operates his own restaurant in Roppongi Hills. The elder son, Yoshikazu, works alongside Jiro and will be his successor. He never utters a word of complaint, but those close to him know he will forever be in his father’s shadow. The documentary hints at how this may turn out.
Watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi for the sushi porn. Your eyes will drool. Then watch it again for the character study. Jiro is a complex man. He is a shokunin striving for perfection. The documentary beautifully illustrates the lengths he will go to achieve this, as well as the lengths he has gone from a child to a top Michelin-rated chef.
Now to make a long-distance call and buy some plane tickets… Nom nom nom.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi opens in select theaters on March 9th, 2012. Check the movie’s official website for times. Upcoming engagements at Landmark Theatres will be in the following cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco (East Bay), Seattle and Washington DC.