Appetizers
April 16, 2012
Movie to see: 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'

jirodreamssushiposter.jpg"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a documentary with a simple story - one man's lifelong quest to master his craft.

It just so happens that the craft is sushi and the man is Jiro Ono, perhaps the most revered sushi chef in Japan and, thanks to the recent foray of the Michelin Guide into that nation, an increasingly famous culinary treasure throughout the Western world.

The movie is in Japanese. The subtitles are in English. The message is universal. To watch "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is to be inspired and humbled. Jiro is in his mid-80s and has never stopped learning or seeking new ways to be better at what he does. He goes to work every day, tirelessly seeking the two prongs of greatness - mastery of what he has done countless times while dreaming up ways that have yet to be attempted.

The movie is playing at the Crest through Thursday and I highly recommend it. Though it is not uniquely a foodie movie, anyone interested in restaurants, cooking or fine food would find something to love. Beyond that, the movie is for anyone who can appreciate the story of a humble man who sets out to do better and better, day after day. Sushi consumes him - the product, the technique, the traditions, and the innovations.

An apprenticeship at Jiro's Michelin three-star restaurant in Tokyo can last 10 years. Finishing such an apprenticeship would likely make you world-class. The message: mastery is an accumulation of lessons, of skills, of putting in the time and doing the reps. Perfection is the goal. It is always elusive.

Those in the restaurant business will enjoy the scenes at the storied fish market, where one fishmonger in particular has exceptionally high standards, examining the many massive tuna brought to market and, following meticulous examination of the flesh with flashlight in hand, buying only the best. That is Jiro's supplier. Jiro only uses the best rice, too, though it is not as simple as that. The techniques to make this particular rice are daunting, requiring great skill and innovation. His suppliers won't just sell their products to anybody. They are revered in their own right. Greatness is a two-way street. To be the best, you have to deal with the best.

The movie won't answer all of your questions. Greatness, for instance, is a bewildering combination of learning, practice, talent and obsession. Great food, too, is not so easy to wrap your head around. If simplicity and minimalism are Jiro's goals, how does his food continue to outshine that of his competitors? I would imagine the ultimate answer can only be found in the restaurant, when you come face to face with the master himself, and his 20 courses of sushi.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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