What do you say when you sit down with a master? And as is the case with many masters, you are a kindly 85 year old man. For me, having met masters before, it is usually with humble curiosity. As his story languorously unfolds we are told the tale of man who is a founding member of the old school. Yet his pursuit of perfection in his art keeps an unending twinkle in his eye. Director David Gelb sets the tone right away so that you see this twinkle. It is a tone of reverence and patience, a tone of visual splendor and style. It not only slowly introduces us to this man: it finds ways to portray the impact he has in his culinary world.
Most importantly, the story of Jiro is told by all the apprentices, the vendors and critics and sons that surround him. It is in this style that the weight of all he contributes is known. From his youngest son who has his own restaurant and renown, to his oldest son who has to has to step into the shoes of this legend, we see that Jiro is a stringent teacher that seeks the best from those around him but does so in such a way as to encourage perseverance, excellence, and a never ending attitude of patience. Even when he chides for a misstep it is often with affection and humor.
When we sit with an acclaimed Michelin critic who is the foremost in following Jiro’s career, the impact of what Jiro does with sushi is learned. And when he says the perfect Michelin 3 star rating is the minimum they could give his restaurant, you get an even deeper sense of how special Jiro’s creations truly are.
As we find out about how he passes his craft on for free to those willing to learn and invest the 10 years required, more of his story is told. The apprentices speak with nothing but respect, reverence and gratitude for what they learn from him. We also spend time with his son as he chooses fish and talks about his journey with sushi and how he sees his march into the future and you have to quietly honor his certitude and courage at the prospect of taking over for his father.
As the preparations get ready for another day of masterful sushi we get a chance to watch the maestro at work. The diners watch Jiro’s hand dance with fish and it is easy to see their riveted ardor for each new creation that is unveiled in front of them. As this unfolds, Gelb films it with a foodie’s eroticism. This effort towards the end of our time with Jiro portrays the staggering palette of his skill in a 20 piece sushi tour de force that can hardly be imagined and at $330 per meal must for all intents and purposes be wholly experienced.
As my time with you winds down and I let the tale of your life marinade, one vision sticks with me that makes me smile and that is the telling tale of a Master … when he is in his domain and element he possesses a calm repose and infinite comfort that cannot be assailed – and so it is with you numerous times throughout this testimony.
I bow to you, Master at calm repose. I may never sample your sushi but will always respect your work and that is the gift of this film in the end. I am honored to partake of your story as is anyone who sees it.