- Today on the podcast, Anthony talks to David Gelb – director of the award-winning documentary ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’. This documentary is a fascinating look into the life of 85-year old sushi master Jiro Ono, widely considered to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. Jiro is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin 3-star restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. The film has earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, with critics describing it as “beautiful, thoughtful, and engrossing.”
A Dream of Sushi
On the show is director David Gelb whose childhood love and passion for sushi led him to the world’s greatest sushi chef in the world. His film “Why Jiro Dreams of Sushi” follows the daily life of 85-year old Jiro Ono. An intimate look at Jiro’s insistence for absolute perfection in making sushi, the film follows not only his philosophy in work and life but also the lives of the people that surround him. From the fish sellers at the market to restaurant staff struggling to meet Jiro’s high standards, the film also captures the tense relationship Jiro has with his eldest son waiting patiently at the wings for the time his father retires.
David detailed his first encounter with Jiro through an introduction by food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto. David described Jiro’s restaurant as temple-like, with the quiet reflecting a deep reverence for Jiro’s actions and respect for the customers’ dining experience. David detailed his initial vision for the film as well as its filming and editing process. It was essentially a project of passion into which he poured time, effort, and resources.
What struck David as filming progressed was the depth of Jiro’s story – a human journey of hard work and family. Jiro’s elder son, who is confronted with the challenge of succeeding his father, draws parallels with David’s own experiences as the son of an award-winning filmmaker and grandson of the managing editor of The New York Times.
He also shared his struggles in talking to the local vendors. Although Jiro’s endorsement and a translator enabled him to interview and shoot the restaurant’s rice and fish suppliers, other fish vendors were wary of him and his camera. Many fish sellers had faced backlash after the release of “The Cove” which highlighted the slaughter of dolphins in the small town of Taiji. Thus, they became suspicious of foreigners filming among them.
Throughout the episode, David stressed the importance of the team behind Jiro. The huge commitment of many individuals is essential in ensuring Jiro has the proper tools and quality ingredients to create his masterpieces.
The film is not yet available in Japan, but Jiro Dreams of Sushi is now available on iTunes, Netflix, and DVD. The DVD’s special edition includes deleted scenes that cover personal stories, more information on the individual vendors, a commentary track, and a gallery of Jiro’s creations.