While in Australia recently for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, American chef and writer Anthony Bourdain said that his last meal request would be one single onigiri made by Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono. For us, that’s at least one good reason to see this new food documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
The 85-year-old Jiro, as he is known widely, is the most famous sushi chef in Tokyo and the oldest Michelin-starred chef in the world. Working from sunrise until well after sunset each day, he’s spent his whole life perfecting the art of making sushi. His three-star restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, may seat only ten diners, but has become a Japanese national treasure.
The documentary takes a look at a true sushi master’s life and passion, and the influence he’s had on the lives of his sons – particularly the eldest, Yoshikazu, heir to Jiro’s culinary dynasty. Along with Jiro and his sons, we visit the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, talk to shrimp, squid and rice suppliers and watch in slow motion as he tests and slices the freshest tuna catch of the day. It is a most extraordinary look at the culinary art of fish and rice in its most perfect form.
“After college, I saw BBC’s Planet Earth and immediately thought that it would be great if someone made a movie like that about the world’s best sushi chef,” says Jiro Dreams of Sushi director David Gelb. “I’ve always felt that sushi is the most visually creative food. And the sushi chef is the ultimate showman.”
Gelb scoured Tokyo’s finest sushi restaurants with the renowned critic Yamamoto before finding Sukiyabashi Jiro. There he ate the best sushi he’d ever tasted and met a man whose skill and dedication were beyond anything he had imagined.
He also unearthed a deeply personal family story. “In addition to the amazing sushi, I was intrigued by the fact that he is not only working at 85 years old, but that his sons still work for him,” says Gelb.
Despite his age, Jiro is not yet ready to relinquish his empire. Yoshikazu will eventually succeed him, but a whole life spent in the shadow of his critical father has stood in the way of his own full potential. Though proud to have learned from the great master, the film reveals Yoshikazu’s struggle with showing reverence for his famous father while still striving to control his own life.
A quiet, beautiful and terribly mouth-watering film – you practically need sushi after watching this film – Jiro Dreams of Sushi is more than just food porn. It’s a look at one man’s unflinching passion for perfection and the consequences of propelling yourself forward and never looking back. A delicious documentary.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi open on May 10 in selected cinemas in Sydney.
We have 20 double passes to give away to Jiro Dreams of Sushi. To win email firstname.lastname@example.org with you address and the subject ‘Jiro Sushi’.
Watch the trailer here: