Few people take their professions as seriously as master Japanese sushi maker and Michelin 3-star awarded chef Jiro. Despite being in his mid-80s, having had a heart attack and great success, Jiro still works every single day (except federal holidays, he points out) at his 10-seat sushi restaurant in Tokyo. In the shadows is Yoshikazu, Jiro’s 50 year old eldest son, who is patiently awaiting his father’s retirement in order to succeed him. Director David Gelb’s 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows the hardworking sushi maker and his craft.
Jiro’s ultimate quest to create perfection with his food is more than just a cultural phenomemon as his fellow Japanese either lovingly refer to him as crazy or simply sit in his sushi bar in awe of his skill. During one dinner party, the attendees of the restaurant cluck how considerate he is when he says he customizes the size of the sushi for the person (smaller pieces for woman) or takes note of which side of the dish to place the sushi depending on if the person is left- or right-handed.
While the sushi itself is certainly a big part of the story in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro’s relationship with his sons and his apprentice trainees is another important part. Jiro’s younger son, knowing the restaurant would be inherited by his elder brother according to tradition, left to start his own sushi restaurant. He comments that some of his customers like the more casual atmosphere of his restaurant to that of his father’s, which can be seen as intimidating.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a very direct documentary. There seems to be little bias from the filmmaker as to the story that he wants to tell. The cinematography is simply beautiful, putting the sushi on as much of a pedestal as Jiro himself. While the film doesn’t answer all of the viewers questions (Jiro’s wife is never seen and barely spoken about), those questions aren’t in the front of your head. Instead it’s easy to be drawn into this dream world of beautiful sushi that is Jiro Dreams of Sushi.