Most of us have eaten sushi in one form or another. I’d like to think that I’m fairly adept, my mother owning a sushi restaurant for decades in Santa Monica. I’ve seen the rise of the American sushi movement from the early 80s. Sushi is now available everywhere, from your local supermarkets to the secret sushi locations that feature high end everything at unpublished, market rate prices. People talk about them, as if they’re holding onto a secret. Yet one place stands alone at the top of the rugged mountain of sushi establishments, and it’s Sukiyabashi Jiro – a restaurant that’s garnered back to back Michelin three star ratings in 2008 and 2009. It’s the food lovers holy grail. Filmmaker David Gelb captured the head master chef and octogenarian, Jiro at his finest moments in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The documentary isn’t overly cinematic, or overly dramatic, it’s actually shot clean and classic, and at the same time, takes you into the world of the business of sushi – from in the shop, the fish market, to Jiro’s personal life which further explains how he is known to be the best.
GR: Can you back track and talk about sushi and how you felt compelled to make this documentary?
DG: I’ve loved sushi ever since my dad took me to Japan on business trips starting when I was 2 years old. I was fed a diet of cold soba and cucumber rolls. I’ve loved sushi and Japanese culture ever since. After I got out of film school, I thought to myself, ‘why not make it my job to travel to Japan and eat the best sushi in the world?’
GR: Jiro seems like a stoic and strict person. How is he off camera?
DG: Nobody takes his work more seriously than Jiro. He’s been making sushi for over half a century and he still considers everyday an opportunity to improve his skills. He’s strict because he’s applying his full concentration to the present task. However, once the last customer leaves and he has a moment to relax, you’ll find that he is incredibly kind and personable. He has a great sense of humor.