I doubt many people find themselves sitting around and then say to themselves, â€œ I think I’m going to go watch a movie about a guy who makes sushi.â€ Well, I did that and I tell you, I do not regret it. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a fascinating new documentary by first-time filmmaker David Gelb. It’s subject is Jiro, an 85 year old sushi chef who has been working this job since he was 10 years old and has taken as few days off as possible. He says he fell in love with the job and decided to give his life to it. He even, you guessed it, makes sushi in his dreams.
The restaurant he owns and operates, Sukiyabashi Jiro, does not serve appetizers or even drinks. One piece of sushi is placed in front of the diner at a time and a meal lasts around 15 minutes. Still, it’s so popular that reservations must be made a month in advance. Throughout the movie we see everything that goes into making a perfect sushi course. Jiro demands excellence and is respected and admired because of it. We meet a rice dealer who will only sell to Jiro because he knows it will be cooked properly. We meet a tuna dealer which who will only buy his first choice of a catch or nothing at all, which is why Jiro prefers to buy his tuna from him. Watching a man walk around a fish market doesn’t sound like entertainment but I was intrigued. That’s because I was watching a true master undergo his process and it’s inspiring.
Any drama in the film comes from interviews with Jiro’s employees. One employee talks about how he made hundreds of egg sushis before Jiro considered any of them acceptable. When Jiro finally told him he made one correctly he cried. Jiro’s son Yoshikazu is also quite fascinating as well. He’s 50 years old but still considers himself to be an apprentice, still working for his father. He’s preparing for the day when he will have to take over the restaurant and only hopes that he can do Jiro’s legacy proud.
This movie is definitely not something you see every day and that’s a main reason I liked it. When you watch reality television you see people who are marginally talented at their jobs but like making a spectacle of themselves. Jiro is just the opposite. He is probably the world’s greatest sushi chef yet remains extremely humble. He is constantly in competition only with himself and seeks to improve every day. That’s something we can all look up to.
The film opens on Friday, March 9th in New York at the Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center, and Friday, March 16th in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre, with a National rollout to follow.