I recently watched a documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi to get in the mindset of a documentary filmmaker in preparation for my documentary production class. Dean Cooper, the super cool instructor, urged us to watch a documentary as an assignment. Um, watching TV for homework? You don't need to tell me twice.
Here's a trailer for the film. If you have the time, please, please, please watch the full documentary. You won't regret it!
The documentary follows an 85-year-old sushi chef named Jiro. His restaurant seats about ten people. He takes reservations one month in advance - that's how successful and in demand his food is. His plates start at 30,000 yen - which translates to $300 a plate in North American speak. Crazy, right? Who would spend that much money on so little sushi?
In Jiro's world, quality trumps quantity every time. That's his philosophy on his craft, his art, his passion. People who eat at his restaurant claim each morsel is worth the money. I don't know about you, but I'm a girl who values quantity just as much as quality. Then again I have yet to try Jiro's sushi.
However, that is one issue which the documentary examines. A central focus in the film is continuing Jiro's legacy when he passes. His oldest son, Yoshikazu, is to expected to carry on the tradition of sushi-making as well as maintain Jiro's restaurant and good name. The documentary explores the intensive training processes Yoshikazu and past and present apprentices go through every day to achieve the top quality of sushi Jiro is known for making. Jiro pushes his son and employees to their very limits every day to ensure they have the best ingredients, the best methods, and the best food they can possibly have. Jiro's reputation as a consistent, tough, passionate sushi chef is known among his competitors, customers, and friends.
This got me thinking. Is there a Jiro standard in journalism? Do we as journalism students have a mild-mannered but hard-assed guru of reporting to admire and aspire to be?
If not, there should be one.
Jiro achieves the best results every day - according to the film - by repeating the same high standards of practice every day. He strives for improvement with each day. He maintains amicable relationships with his shrimp and fish dealers (they're honestly called that) as well as communicating constructively with his son and employees. And he pays attention to little details that matter.
Sounds to me that journalism and sushi-making are not that different after all.