Dedication to Craft: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
There’s hardly a more fitting reminder of dedication to craft than the 2011 David Gelb documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The film follow’s 85-year old Jiro in his daily routine of preparing sushi. From buying fresh tuna and squid at the market every morning to massaging the octopus (that’s right for 45 minutes) to talking with the rice vendor who refuses to sell rice to someone just because they ask for it. One of Jiro’s biggest fans is a local food writer who we follow into the restaurant again and again as he articulates the surprise that happens with every meal.
Jiro’s shop (“Sukiyabashi Jiro”) is extremely clean but modest. Located in a Tokyo subway station, it has only ten seats and serves only sushi. Jiro sets up two rounds of meals a day: lunch and dinner—which sounds like he serves 20 people a day. And yet sushi lovers from around the world reserve up to a year in advance (if my memory serves). Jiro is the only sushi chef to receive a three-star Michelin Guide.
The film is a meditation on craft, just as the copy says. Beautifully filmed with long shots of Tokyo life and the chefs’ concentration on their craft, including a mesmerizing classical soundtrack. The film is primarily about Jiro’s compulsion to learn all there is to know about making sushi. But along the way he influences his sons and seems to have changed the way sushi is prepared. In the end, both Mrs. Kirkistan and I felt we wanted to put heart and soul into our respective crafts.
For copywriters and writers, the parallels are clear. Several times in the film, Jiro says he is happiest when he is making sushi. Even at 85 years old, he continues to make a mark and continues to be mesmerized. In fact, there seems to be a push-pull between his work and the rest of his life. Craft is almost the reason he gets up. But it also is his main worry. Hearing what craft looks like from his sons’ perspective and the up and coming chefs that move through the restaurant.
Thanks to Scott Berkun for the recommendation.