“Jiro dreams of sushi”

This article is about the values of a Japanese chef as portrayed in the documentary “Jiro dreams of sushi”. This documentary, which is highly recommendable, is about the 85 year old sushi master, Ono Jiro, and his oldest son, Yoshikazu, who will one day take over his father’s work upon his retirement. Jiro’s extremely renowned sushi restaurant is located Ginza (Tokyo) and it has been awarded 3 prestigious Michelin stars. The lowest price of a meal is 30,000 yen (approx. 215 Euros).

Jiro is a perfectionist and loves his work. Even though he is 85 years old, this elegant gentleman feels that he is yet to reach perfection within sushi preparation. He is obsessed with his work and lives out his passion to the fullest. His mind is therefore always on sushi. His perfectionism is focused on the small details. The cumulative effect on these otherwise minor components serves to raise the quality of the final product. For example, he places great emphasis on the methods for maintaining the temperature of both the fish and rice. So as to improve the taste of octopus, his students massage it for 50 minutes instead of the traditional 30 minutes.

His oldest son, whom everyone expects will take over one day, is in charge of the daily routines. His other son has become an entrepreneur and has opened a nearly identical sushi restaurant in Roppongi Hills (Tokyo). As he puts it, his father has worked with sushi since before he was born, and therefore he cannot consider himself to be his father\’s equal. As a sign of respect of his father’s status, he has lowered his sushi price despite the fact that the concept is the same. Since he is left handed, his bar is decorated as a mirror image of his father’s.

Jiro possesses incredible discipline. He is always self critical, yet with a rare sense of contentment, and his mind is always thinking about how to improve the taste of his food.

“A real craftsman gets good fish and prepares it well,” he says. “We do not think so much about making money.”

He enjoys his work every day, and in his opinion, this is how a true craftsman is.

According to the film, a great chef must possess have 5 qualities:

  • He must be fully committed and always do the best he can.
  • He must always strive to improve.
  • He must be meticulous about hygiene. Good hygiene is crucial for good cooking.
  • He must be stubborn and not pay too much attention to what others say.
  • He must be passionate.

Jiro is a perfectionist and possesses all 5 qualities. Even his students must undergo a 10 year long apprenticeship. This starts with the task of twisting the hot towels with their bare hands, which virtually no one completes without burning their fingers. When they can twist the towels without burning their fingers, they are allowed to touch the fish.

The film also talks about the logistics, including the selection of the different kinds of fresh fish and shellfish, which are offered by the suppliers in the world-renowned Tsukiji fish market. Jiro’s perfectionism once again comes into play and he only selects the best, as this is crucial for the quality of the sushi. Due to the father’s age, his son handles the selection of fish. Over the years, they have built a small network of very specialised suppliers who are just as critical as Jiro is himself. This is seen clearly when the suppliers choose the fish from the fish market. These suppliers have been in the business for so many years that they can sense quality and tell the difference between good and bad fish.

Due to over-fishing, the variety of shellfish has become limited and the challenge they now face is for the son to find a suitable substitute. Jiro claims that shellfish and certain species of fish can be substituted, but finding a full substitute for tuna is impossible.

The film is not just about sushi, but also about dedication and about loving what you do.

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