JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI
Director: David Gelb
Runtime: 81 mins.
Australian release date: 10 May 2012
Masuhiro Yamamoto, the renowned Japanese food critic, maintains there are five attributes to becoming a great chef and these are: “Take your work seriously; aspire to improve; maintain cleanliness; be a better leader than a collaborator; and be passionate about your work.” In David Gelb’s documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Yamamoto declares he has found such a master in Jiro Ono, the most famous sushi chef in Tokyo. In fact, Ono-san has been perfecting his craft for most of his 85 years.
Set in his sushi-only 3-star Michelin restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, Ono works from sunrise to well after sunset, perfecting all that is deemed necessary to fill the highly sought after ten seats. After all, this is all about quality, not quantity. And, for those lucky enough to score a booking, it is, judging by the diners interviewed on screen, a splendid mouth-watering experience.
Ono has two sons, one who works as his apprentice and another who has branched out on his own. The relationships he has with both sons are quite different, but there seems to be a mutual respect and honourable attitude to his continual presence and control of the machinations at Sukiyabashi Jiro. There is even the suggestion that once he shuffles off this mortal coil, the restaurant could close, as there would be no replacement for the Master, even though his son is a worthy heir.
The documentary was a combination of an eight week shoot in Tokyo, over a two-year period. Jiro Dreams of Sushi looks as fresh as its subject and Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer’s editing, which pays close attention to detail, coupled with Gelb’s fascination of Ono’s philosophy about food and life, have successfully brought this aspect to the screen. If you have ever been to Japan, this is a wonderful reminder of the precision and style that defines Japanese cuisine and culture. A word of warning though - don’t go hungry! The experience makes for some pretty stomach-rumbling moments, even if refined ones.
Watching Jiro Ono perfect his craft is a quiet, meditative experience and at no time does it become boring, as frame after frame, another sushi work of art is served. Those lunch boxes from your local sushi bar will somehow never taste the same!