Interview: Jiro Dreams of Sushi director David GelbPhotos courtesy of David Gelb
In “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” director David Gelb documents Jiro Ono, the chef-owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a subterranean, 10-seat Tokyo restaurant that narrowed its options over the years, now serving nothing but sushi. Jiro is an octogenarian, earned three Michelin stars in 2008, and continues his quest for sushi perfection alongside oldest son and eventual successor Yoshikazu. In the movie, we also get to know his younger son, Takashi, who runs a second Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo’s Roppongi neighborhood; and Japanese restaurant critic Yamamoto, who deftly puts Jiro’s distinguishing achievements and characteristics into context. On March 6, we spoke with director David Gelb, who filmed the documentary over the course of two years and sifted through 150 hours of Japanese language footage with editor Brandon Driszoll-Luttringer to achieve the desired result.
Would Jiro Dreams of Sushi have worked with any other sushi chefs? Did you consider any other chefs?
Originally I thought it might be a film about three or four chefs, but when I met Jiro I realized that a film about him would be more than just a film about sushi…The movie works because it’s a movie not just about sushi, but it’s about an incredibly inspiring person and it’s about family, set in the world of sushi.
How many times have you eaten at Sukiyabashi Jiro, and was there any variation between meals?
I may have eaten there three times and had full tasting courses, and then I also had the privilege of tasting some of the sushi during filming, when we were filming close-up shots. Instead of offending Jiro, I had to eat it. That was my favorite part of the movie, was eating the sushi.
I read your quote where you say, “Jiro has created an art form.” If food can be art, in what ways is that possible?
I think that art is something that moves and inspires its audiences, so when people eat at Jiro, they really feel something when they’re eating the food, both in the presentation of the restaurant itself, the beauty of the sushi, and people feel uplifted when they eat there, so that’s as legitimate an art form as any other
Near the end of your movie, Jiro expresses admiration for Yoshikazu’s efforts as a sushi chef, and says that now he only has to continue on that path for the rest of his life. Was it a given that Jiro’s two sons would both become sushi chefs?